The European Union’s rotating presidency will pass on July 1 from Spain to Belgium, and then six months later from Belgium to Hungary. The direction of EU affairs will therefore soon be in the hands of a centre-right Hungarian government that has wasted little time, since its massive election victory in April, in asserting its patriotic – some would say ‘nationalist’ – credentials.
Policymakers in Brussels are anxiously watching this development. They recall the unhappy experience of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in the first half of 2009. The last thing they want is another turbulent presidency run by one of the 10 central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004-2007. It would give critics of EU enlargement even more ammunition to fight with. Read more
There are all sorts of threats to the European Union’s unity, but something tells me that the biggest threat isn’t the Visegrad group. This appears to be a view not shared by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
Speaking after the October 29-30 EU summit in Brussels, Sarkozy criticised the fact that the leaders of the four Visegrad countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – had held a pre-summit meeting to co-ordinate their positions. “If they were to meet regularly before each Council, that would raise some questions,” Sarkozy said. Read more
After the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe, one compelling argument for bringing the region into the European Union was that the experience of prosperity, democracy and everyday multinational co-operation would ease national and ethnic tensions there. Who knew, perhaps eventually it would get rid of them altogether, just as France and Germany were gradually reconciled after the second world war?
A flare-up of tensions last month between Slovakia and Hungary will serve as proof, to those western Europeans who were always hostile to enlargement, that such hopes were premature. Worse still, it will confirm them in their opinion that, by admitting the two countries in 2004, all the EU succeeded in doing was to trap a nasty virus inside its own borders. Read more