25 March 2011

The (draft) European Council conclusions commend and task the Hungarian Presidency

As you could see, we try to avoid turning this blog into a Presidency propaganda site – the number of readers lately suggest that you agree with us. This is our personal and honest account of the events as we see them from inside.

Still we can’t help giving way to a moment of pride as the efforts of our colleagues start to bear fruit. How far the Presidency has gone is clearly visible form the highest source, i.e. the conclusions of the European Council, which greet the Presidency achievements and entrusts it with further tasks.

We know that the ultimate test of any presidency is how it reacts to unexpected events. Well, we had plenty of them – probably the most tumultuous presidency for decades. What is shocking, is that many have criticized the action (or sometimes non-action) by some EU actors, but the Hungarian Presidency has never received any criticism for its handling of the crisis (or its share of the answer), only approval. True, in CFSP the communication burden is not on us, but the policy work does rest on our shoulders: in areas of Energy supply and security, in migration, border control and asylum policy, in pushing through decisions on enhanced funding for the region, it is the Presidency who has to deliver. We are not going to bore you with the details, so we have put a list into the footnote*. But let’s look at the summit conclusions on Libya/Southern Neighborhood instead:

What we see is clear praise for the diplomatic efforts of the Presidency for negotiating with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean region (see recent trip of Mr. Martonyi to Egypt here) and for the record speed in imposing sanctions (see here the first round, then extensions here and here.) Clear tasking in the area of Migration (Frontex) and development (EIB and pan-Euro-Mediterranean rules of origin).

On the economy, what can be known already also shows an appreciation for the Presidency’s work. The European Council endorses the execution of the European Semester, which is based on the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey as well as the conclusions and synthesis report prepared by the Hungarian Presidency.

The European Council also welcomed the result of the work of the Hungarian Presidency on the 6-pack, namely the general approach which now allows us to negotiate with the EP. A clear task is also given to close those negotiations by June 2011.

Finally, the European Council underlines the importance of bank stress tests. Here, the Presidency saved the day in February when the EP was threatening to reject the appointment of the Chairperson of the Banking Authority. With a delay in the appointment procedure that was thankfully averted, the Authorities would probably not be able to carry out the tests so soon.

And you have not even seen the conclusions on Japan and energy security yet . The temptation is great to quote from them, as we know that most journalists have it already, but still it would be a gross violation of our mandate. As soon as they become public, we will update this post with more details :)

*First of all, the conclusions proudly mention that the EU “has reacted swiftly to implement the sanctions imposed... The European Union stands ready to initiate and adopt further sanctions, including measures to ensure that oil and gas revenues do not reach the Khadafi regime.”Indeed we have already blogged about the incredible speed with which the Presidency pushed through the sanctions (see here) with full cooperation of the MS. There were four rounds of sanctions and we can’t exclude new ones coming…

In the next point the conclusions mention civil protection and humanitarian operations. These are run by the Commission, under the political guidance of the Presidency and EEAS (e.g. activation, negotiation with the countries – see here and here). The EU is represented in Libya by the Hungarian Embassy, where our colleagues are making almost superhuman efforts under rather dangerous conditions.

On migration, the “European Council welcomes the recent visit of the Presidency and the Commission to Egypt as part of a first phase of consultations to promote a comprehensive approach to migration” – indeed the Hungarian diplomacy is fully mobilized and working on this behind the scenes. “Agreement should be reached by June 2011 on the regulation enhancing the capabilities of Frontex” – another priority in our programme.

On funding, the summit was clearly tasking the Presidency, saying “the ceiling for EIB operations for Mediterranean countries undertaking political reform should be increased by 1 billion, without reducing operations in the EU’s Eastern neighbors”. Negotiating this with the European Parliament will be our task.

Then, “the proposals on pan-Euro-Mediterranean rules of origin should be adopted without delay” – here our customs experts have been leading tough negotiations in the Council, another thing we have to deliver.

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