“Javier Solana: The Hungarian EU Presidency Performed Correctly”
Media outlet: Hungarian National News Agency (MTI)
Date: June 16, 2011
Journalist: Laszlo Hofer
Budapest, Thursday, June 16, 2011—Hungary performed correctly during its EU presidency in the first half of 2011, commented Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO to MTI in an interview on Thursday.
“The balance of the Hungarian EU presidency is positive. Very difficult situations had to be handled,” he said, referring to the fact that the internal life of the EU was filled with handling the financial-economic crisis. “The creation of the regulations concerning the new financial frame have not been completely finished, mostly this kept Europe and many other places in the world occupied in the last two years,” he explained.
Although the six-month rotating presidency still has an important symbolic role, the activities of the presidencies are less visible after the institutional modifications of the Lisbon Treaty, Solana pointed out.
The former Secretary General of NATO came to Budapest to receive the CEU Open Society Prize, which was presented this year by the founder of the institution, George Soros, at the 20th CEU Graduation Ceremony in the Palace of Arts. The award is given to those who contribute with their work to strengthening the values of open society, and have outstanding achievements in this field. Among the former recipients we found are Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, Arpad Goncz and Vaclav Havel, former Hungarian and Czech presidents.
“I am optimistic. The EU always finds a way out of crises, and the unity of the EU will certainly become stronger,” Solana declared. He added that without any doubt, economic problems will be solved—the only question is when and on what conditions. He said that we have to be clever in drawing conclusions about the institutional defects that contributed to the crisis.
According to Solana, the values of open society must not get damaged because of the economic crisis and the role of the state does not necessarily need to be strengthened. “We are talking about global problems, so we need global institutions to solve them,” he said. He explained that the G20 and similar international cooperations need to play a bigger role.
Solana, 69, was Minister of Foreign Affairs in Spain between 1992 and 1995; Secretary General of NATO between 1995 and 1999; and Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy between 1999 and 2009. He rejected criticism about the EU not having a common foreign policy. He articulated his role in the modification of the Lisbon Treaty and called attention to the fact that the modification happened only six months before. “Obviously, there will be some internal conflict, but then results will follow and the EU will become more effective” he added. He also said that agreements always have certain limitations, and in many cases it is extremely difficult to find a consensus.
Solana named the social changes in North Africa as a very important revolutionary change. He said that this region, which is currently awakening from long decades of exclusion, now wants to get back into the bloodstream of the world. He said he is very impressed by the way today’s generation of young Arabs are standing up for the protection of their dignity and are not asking for money but for help in restoring that. “First and foremost, respect must be shown toward these nations fighting very peacefully for their rights. They achieved results which were unimaginable before,” he said. He stressed that “this is only the beginning.” Regarding EU policy concerning the southern nations, he said that “our task is to accompany them and not to govern them. They govern their own fate.”
He shared his view that the events taking place in the southern neighborhood of the EU must not hinder the progress in any sense in the Eastern Partnership Program of the EU. “The Arab Spring cannot affect what we have achieved with the Eastern partners,” he said. Though very important events are taking place in North Africa and the Middle East, “nothing will be the same anymore,” and the EU has to continue cooperating with the Eastern partners.
Regarding the adjournment of the Eastern Partnership Summit planned to be held in Budapest at the end of the first term, he said, “We have the capacity to be looking into two different directions at the same time. Both are very important and the significance of Eastern relations will not diminish.”
In connection with one of the main goals of the Hungarian EU presidency, the advancement of the integration of the West Balkans, he explained: As regards the accession of Croatia into the EU, significant progress has been made in the recent weeks and Serbia has made an important step with the extradition of Radko Mladic, the former general accused of war crimes. “Presumably, this will bring a fundamental change in the relationship between the EU and Serbia; this was one of the serious, unresolved issues” he said. He is convinced that “the path of Serbia to EU membership is now open” and that European leaders will decide accordingly. He also said that the problem of Kosovo–Serbia not recognizing the independence of its former province–has to be resolved and that for the sake of everyone, Belgrade has to settle its relationship with Kosovo.
Solana also said that the EU has to remain open and that sooner or later it has to admit Turkey. He argued that the European Union has to be refreshed and that the gates have to be kept open for others. “Europe is a colorful region, our fate is being colorful,” he said. “This is what the history of the continent is about and we should not be afraid of it.”.
From the perspective of a former Secretary General of NATO, he said that Osama bin Laden’s killing somewhat decreases the danger of terrorism. He believes it has damaged the terrorist organization. And he stressed that one of the most important tasks for the future will be to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a shelter for terrorists again.
MTI provides a comprehensive coverage of domestic and foreign politics, economics, society, science, culture and sports. It issues 600 written news items and 200 photos daily; has a reporter in each county of Hungary, as well as in 13 foreign countries; and has the biggest photo collection in Central Europe.