Equal treatment afforded to all Member States is an issue of credibility for EU

Minister of State for EU Affairs Szabolcs Takács’s answer to French comments concerning consultations with members of the public.

At the meeting of the General Affairs Council held on Tuesday in Brussels, Szabolcs Takács, Minister of State for EU Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office highlighted that the rule of law procedure instituted by the Commission against Poland is unjustified and legally unfounded. According to the Minister of State the goal of the Commission is to put political pressure on Warsaw, and Hungary rejects this in the strongest possible terms. By having instituted a separate procedure against Poland in December, the European Commission exceeded its powers once again as pursuant to the EU Treaties the Brussels body is not a political agency, but the EU’s executive arm which is responsible for drawing up legislative proposals.

In Hungary’s view the Commission’s procedure is lacking in legal foundations, and there is no scope for singling out a country in this manner. Pursuant to the December 2014 unanimous decision of the Member States, the only legitimate forum for dialogue regarding the rule of law is the General Affairs Council where the principles of equal treatment and the prohibition of discrimination – which are also binding on the European Commission – are upheld.

At the meeting the French EU minister mentioned President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative regarding civil consultations, in the context of which the French President said 26 Member States had joined the initiative, singling out Hungary as the only Member State that had opted not to join. In his contribution Mr Takács expressed hope that the purpose of the French initiative was not to divide the Member States even on issues where there was no division.

This is, however, what the French comments appear to indicate. According to Mr Takács, the Hungarian position regarding the French initiative is effectively identical to the views held by a number of other Member States, and therefore comments mentioning Hungary as the only Member State opting not to participate in the initiative can be regarded as a misleading attempt to exert political pressure. This is particularly so in light of the fact that details of the French proposal have not been disclosed yet.

He quoted the common statement of the Visegrád countries made on 26 January in which they clearly laid down: they are open to the proposal as long as it respects national practices. Also to date the Hungarian government has supported all constructive dialogues and debates on the future of the European Union, and in the future, too, they would like European citizens to have an opportunity to freely state their opinions on issues which they are genuinely interested in. To this end it is necessary to avoid centralisation and extreme bureaucracy. The Minister of State highlighted since 2010 Hungary had had an established practice – which is unique in the European Union – for listening to the people’s opinions so that policy-makers could take them into consideration: there are regular consultations between the government and members of the public.

The ministers also debated issues on the intensification of the EU’s social dimension. In the context of this issue Mr Takács underlined that since 2010 there had been a successful and fully functional model in Hungary which was based on the coherence and interaction of competitiveness, a workfare economy, demography, family policy as part of it, and identity. This is a value on the preservation of which we insist, and we do not wish to give it up even despite Brussels proposals.

The Minister of State observed that employment and family policy issues fall within the competence of Member States within the European Union. Hungary always bears the strengthening of the EU’s competitiveness in mind, and this is why it is opposed to assigning a primary role to social criteria, within the framework of the European Semester, at the expense of economic and competitiveness criteria. A comprehensive debate will have to be conducted on the method of the EU-level implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the European Council where the leaders of the Member States can make a unanimous decision.

(Prime Minister’s Office)


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