EU presidency

Barroso, left, at Thursday's news conference with Denmark's Thorning-Schmidt in Copenhagen

A good chunk of the Brussels press corps has been in Copenhagen this week for the formal kick-off of Denmark’s turn at the EU’s 6-month rotating presidency. Days of back-to-back ministerial briefings and ceremonial events have focused intensively on the Danish government’s “green growth” agenda – down to the green skirt-clad Danish National Girls Choir performing “Plant a Tree” at a concert attended by EU bigwigs Wednesday night.

But when it came to today’s official handoff of the EU reins to Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, there was a slight hiccup: Denmark’s Vestas, the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, chose the same day to announce it was cutting 2,335 jobs – most of them in its home country. Read more

Hungarian finance minister Gyorgy Matolcsy, left, at last month's meeting of EU finance ministers

It is no secret that in the waning days of their European Union presidency, the Hungarians are going for broke trying to broker a deal on the “six pack” – the sprawling legislative package that would provide new tools, including fines, to force member states to rein in excessive spending and reform their economies.

The six pack is one of the bloc’s chief responses to the debt crisis, and pushing it over the finish line would surely rank as the high point of Hungary’s first ever turn in the EU’s big chair. (Depending on whom you ask, it could also mark an historic moment in the march toward an ever-closer European union.)

While the chances of finding common ground between member states, the European commission and a muscle-flexing parliament seemed remote just a few weeks ago, the Hungarians are not ready to give up just yet. The next hurdle comes Tuesday, when Hungarian diplomats will present a possible compromise to EU finance ministers at a dinner in Brussels. Read more

For those who might not have noticed, Marton Hajdu, an affable and always reliable spokesman for Hungary’s EU presidency, has taken issue with our Brussels Blog item from last week about the covering put over the controversial Hungarian carpet during Friday’s European summit here in Brussels.

In a posting in the comments section of our blog, Marton gently prods us for constantly writing about the carpet issue to begin with – admittedly a somewhat tangential issue, but what’s a blog for if not to occasionally write about tangential issues?

Importantly, however, Marton says there’s a more prosaic reason for why the carpet – which includes a map of Hungary in 1848, riling Slovaks and Romanians, since parts of their countries were Hungarian at the time – was covered during the summit: “presidency decoration” is no longer allowed at the Justis Lipsius building during EU summits. Read more

For those, like the Brussels Blog, who have been following every twist and turn of the saga over Hungary’s carpet in the European Union building that hosts major summits, here’s another twist: the carpet has been covered up.

For those not following the drama so closely, a quick summary: To mark their turn at the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, Hungary laid down the carpet with symbols of the country’s history – including a map of Hungary from 1848, when parts of current-day Slovakia and Romania were within Hungarian borders. It has added to concerns about the nationalist tendencies of the government in Budapest.

Suffice it to say, the Slovaks and Romanians haven’t been amused.

But for today’s heads of government summit in Brussels, the first during the Hungarian presidency, the carpet has been covered by a giant Hungarian-green rug, raising questions of whether Budapest has backed down in the face of criticism.

We’ve been told, however, that no such climb-down is in the works. Read more

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