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10. 7. 2024

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The Council of the EU is currently undergoing a substantial transition, with Belgium and Hungary at the forefront of this regular semiannual power shift. Belgium holds the presidency from January to June 2024, and Hungary will assume it from July to December 2024. This breakfast debate delves into the complexities of the presidency transition and its potential impact on the future of the EU.

Adrien Vernimmen, Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Belgium in the Czech Republic underscored the significance of sustainable policies that prioritize the EU’s general interests over national agendas, emphasizing the historical context of EU presidencies. In the past, presidencies have effectively addressed ongoing crises and completed necessary legislative agendas. The EU is currently preoccupied with the negotiation of frameworks for the integration of Ukraine and Moldova, the reinforcement of the rule of law, and the protection of press freedom through the adoption of the EU Free Media Act. Furthermore, the financial framework is designed to simultaneously finance Ukraine and support the EU’s budget.

Adrien Vernimmen identified climate issues as a critical priority that necessitates a comprehensive approach. The Nature Restoration Law, sustainable packaging, and strict air quality regulations are all critical initiatives. Under the Belgian presidency, the EU is also addressing a triple crisis in relation to migration, advancing the EU defense industry package, and achieving substantial agreements. It is imperative to provide Ukraine with an additional €5 billion in assistance funds to aid in its reconstruction and modernization. Despite the conflict in the Middle East not being a priority, the EU is taking additional measures by imposing sanctions and establishing rapid response mechanisms. Balancing the Common Agricultural Policy with animal welfare while maintaining competitiveness, is crucial in the agricultural sector, as is the promotion of the broader EU strategic agenda and the enhancement of internal functioning.

The Commission’s geopolitical activities and the significance of new member states in the EU were emphasized by H.E. Dr. András Baranyi, Ambassador at the Embassy of Hungary in the Czech Republic. Future informal summits, such as the EU-Western Balkans Summit and the European Political Community Summit, will concentrate on the promotion of enlargement, defense, and competitiveness. “The core essence of our presidency is mutual respect and cooperation with other institutions in the EU,” H.E. Dr. András Baranyi emphasized what is most important for Hungary to achieve in its current presidency. It is crucial to address demographic challenges and improve migration, with a particular focus on supporting farmer agriculture within the EU. It is imperative to implement new competitiveness policies while simultaneously reconciling the Green Deal with economic objectives. It is crucial that incentives are provided to stakeholders, especially EV buyers, to help them accept the Green Deal while maintaining competitiveness. 

The significance of strategic autonomy in defense, stable financing for the defense industry, and improved cooperation among member states was also emphasized by H.E. Dr. András Baranyi. In order to guarantee sovereignty and stable defense financing, a comprehensive strategy is necessary for defense policy, with a particular emphasis on controlled migration. Additionally, integrating nuclear energy into the green framework and modifying the Green Deal to guarantee competitiveness were highlighted. “If we are able to be competitive while respecting the Green Deal, we will be ahead of all other competition,” Adrien Vernimmen highlighted the possibility of coexistence between competitiveness and a restructured Green Deal.

The legislative collaboration between Hungary and Belgium was addressed by Eva Horelová, Deputy Head and Head of the Political Section of the European Commission Representation in the Czech Republic. This collaboration has encompassed 122 legislative proposals designed to direct the EU’s strategic agenda and has been significantly influenced by the Single Market Act, the Industrial Strategy, and other strategic documents. The EU defense and industrial plan’s proposals underscore the necessity of strategic investments to prevent depopulation and promote reconciliation in the Balkans. 

H.E. Dr. András Baranyi underscored the significance of facilitating the integration process for Western Balkan countries and enacting the requisite legislation to expedite their EU membership during the Q&A session. Strategic autonomy, stable financing, and cooperation among member states were the primary defense priorities. Altering the Green Deal to guarantee its competitiveness and integrating nuclear energy into the green framework were also addressed. H.E. Dr. András Baranyi reiterated Hungary’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the provision of legitimate armament while acknowledging the international agreements and sanctions against Russia. “The enlargement of the European Union gives benefits to the already existing member states as well both economically and geopolitically,” H.E. Dr. András Baranyi linked the goals of their presidency to a large meaning for other countries in the EU.

With an emphasis on strategic alignments, legislative frameworks, and sustainable policies, the presidency transition will shape the EU’s approach to economic competitiveness, defense, and climate issues, among other things. The significance of unity and forward-thinking in navigating the EU’s intricate political landscape has been underscored by the intense collaboration between both countries and their common perspectives on the future of the EU.