A strong pro-Lisbon and future-oriented stance

Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
According to the official standpoint of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although Hungary regretted the outcome of the Irish referendum in June 2008, it supported the view to respect the decision of the Irish people.[1] It is important to emphasize that this was not the first time when the Union had to face a negative vote on a treaty. After the Irish ‘No’, it is of utmost importance to find a solution that is legally and politically acceptable for Ireland, the other 26 member states and the EU as a whole. Political and economic issues in the second semester of 2008 proved that there is a real need for a coherent Union that can react to challenges quickly and that is close to its citizens.
Hungary remains committed to political integration and sincerely supports a more democratic, effective and transparent Union. Budapest is confident that the Lisbon Treaty would be a significant step to achieve these goals. Therefore, Hungary does not currently find it necessary to search for alternative scenarios. The Hungarian government is satisfied with the agreement reached at the European Council of December 2008 as it makes the Irish ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon possible, by addressing the key concerns of the Irish people. It is hoped that given these guarantees, the Irish people will approve the treaty on the next referendum. In this case, the Union must also ensure that the document enters smoothly into force: necessary institutional decisions and appointments (President of the European Council, High Representative) must be taken in due course. The election of the new European Commission has to be carried out according to the usual procedure.
The entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and the developments it brings about would make possible for the EU to finally close the issues of institutional reforms and concentrate fully on other urgent challenges that have a direct effect on citizens’ everyday life. The Hungarian government believes that there is a real need to raise the awareness of the people on EU affairs and the citizens need to be involved in the political process. The June 2009 elections of the members of the European Parliament provide an appropriate opportunity for this.
The greatest Hungarian oppositional force, the coalition of Fidesz – Hungarian Civil Alliance and the Christian Democrats are of a similar view. According to József Szájer, MEP (European Peoples Party – European Democrats, EPP-ED) the EU must stop the ’navel gazing’ behaviour regarding institutional and ’constitutional’ issues, and it must do all efforts to close these debates and to adequately face the present and upcoming internal and external challenges.[2] According to Mr. Szájer, the EU is for the time being too weak to act efficiently in many respects while it is still far from its citizens. The Lisbon Treaty will be a good remedy for these concerns, and it is to be welcomed that the EU launched strategic thinking up to the horizon of 2020-30. In Mr. Szájer’s view, the reflection on the future of the EU must embrace such aspects as the preservation of the European social model, the development of the knowledge-based society, or the strengthening of European identity (in fact he also leads a group in Hungary elaborating key issues for the EU up to 2025).[3]

[1] Based on information provided by high officials of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[2] Magyarország többre képes, speech delivered at a conference organized by Hungarian EPP-ED members in Budapest on the 16t January 2009, available at: http://www.fideszfrakcio.hu/index.php?Cikk=127160 (last access: 27 February 2009).

[3] Európa 2025, available at: http://szajer.fidesz-eu.hu/galeria/File/SZEK_Europa_2025.pdf (last access: 27 February 2009).