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Boka: Hungary has own views on EU

Hungarians have "a vision, strategy and a proposed solution" when it comes to Europe's "crisis symptoms", Janos Boka, the EU affairs minister, said in an interview to the daily Magyar Nemzet, in which he also outlined what may be expected when Hungary holds the European Council presidency next year.

Boka said in the interview published on Tuesday that the establishment of an independent EU affairs ministry had been born out of the need for a strong and effective representation of Hungarian interests amid “circumstances have changed in a fundamental way”.

“The European Union is in worse shape than it was. Its immune system is weakened.”

Boka said the EU today focused its energy on finding ways to apply ideological pressure instead of nurturing the bloc’s diversity and harnessing the advantages it offers. This threatened the EU’s unity because it created rifts instead of seeking a common ground, he argued.

He said the EU was also giving the wrong responses to its external challenges. EU institutions, he said, had a history of emerging stronger and with more powers from crises while depriving member states of the tools and resources to effectively manage those crises. This is something the institutions consciously aim for, and “operate as a kind of crisis factory”, the minister said, noting that this was causing a realignment of power between member states and the institutions.

Despite member states having given up some of their powers, the EU’s economic power on the global market, he said, was waning, and the bloc was also failing to fulfil its ambitions on the global political stage. “This trend is unacceptable,” he added.

Boka said the EU affairs ministry’s task was to offer solutions to these problems and generate political support for them from member states and the institutions. “That’s what sets us apart from others. We Hungarians have a vision, a strategy and proposed solutions when it comes to Europe’s crisis symptoms,” Boka said. “And our proposal is related to the root of the problem.”

The minister said Hungary’s solution was that the bloc’s member states should be competitive and action-oriented, he said. The point of European cooperation is not to deprive member states of their economic and political tools, but rather to contribute to making them stronger, he said.

“We envision a Europe of nations, not a federal Europe, and that is the alternative we will present in our decision-making,” the minister said.

Concerning the EU’s operations, Boka said Hungary was convinced that the bloc was an institutional system that must operate in accordance with its treaties and legal framework, and where the rules were enforced by checks and balances.

“I disagree with the idea that if there is political will for something in the European Union, then we can somehow just find the legal and institutional solution for it,” he said. “This is inconsistent with the principles of the rule of law which they demand from certain member states with great enthusiasm.”

The EU will only be successful if it can ensure the coexistence of the principles of national sovereignty and European cooperation among member states, he said.

During its presidency of the Council of the EU next year, Hungary will strive to demonstrate how its vision of the EU functions, Boka said. “We don’t wish to lecture or marginalise other member states,” he said. “We want to give the possibility of political initiative and strategic direction back to member states. We will assess every initiative and proposal from the perspective of whether they address real problems…”

Boka added that Hungary’s EU presidency would not be free of political conflict, however. “These are, of course, related to the principles and values we represent, but go beyond Hungary and the Hungarian government,” he said. “It is actually a new Europe policy and the possibility for a new European political majority that are at stake. Hungary’s presidency can also play a role in strengthening this alternative, which many people are rooting against.”

Concerning Hungary’s EU funds, Boka said the government was doing everything it its power to unlock the resources Hungary and Hungarians were entitled to. He said the procedures that have denied Hungary access to certain funds were political in nature.

Boka said Hungary was cooperating in the procedures in good faith and in a constructive way, but the EU institutions had been very “restrained” in their indication of the potential for an agreement, so the question was how the political negotiation process may end. But political negotiations were not new territory for Hungary, he said, “and we are not without resources”.

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