Hungary “whole-heartedly” supports the Visegrad Group’s statement concerning the future of the European Union adopted at a summit meeting of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia on Thursday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a press conference in Warsaw.
The Visegrad Group (V4) leaders want national control over legislative and political processes in the EU to be strengthened and a better Europe rather less or more Europe. The single market and integrity of the Schengen Zone should be retained, according to the statement, and the V4 warned that any divisions within the EU could lead to divergence between member states. Interests of all member states should be treated equally and any changes within the euro zone should not be allowed to cause ruptures within the community as a whole, the statement said.
“We are witnessing the emergence of a new world order in which countries need to define their own place,” Viktor Orbán said. He added that the V4 statement would be instrumental in that self-determination. Orbán said that there is an ongoing discussion about the future of continental Europe. Hungary has to set specific goals and take decisions regarding “our common lives” within the EU without upsetting the balance between states and EU institutions. There have been examples of “the stealthy curbing of competencies” before, and countries have to keep the decision on important issues such as the setting of energy prices, migration, the independent tax system and strategies for job protection in their own hands, he said. “Discussions are a part of life and we’ll have to stand our ground,” he said. Hungary has always stood up for its own interests and the Visegrád states are sympathetic allies in this venture, he said.
Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydło said changes in the EU should not lead to “permanent cracks”. “Not ‘more or less Europe’, but a better Europe – this is the proposal of the Visegrad Group,” she told a news conference after the prime ministers’ meeting. She called on European Council President Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland and a political foe of its current ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, to ensure that EU reforms are agreed before the Rome summit on March 25. Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said the state of preparations for the summit was “lamentable”.”It may happen that it will not be a vision of Europe for the future but a collection of individual, national interests which cannot help anyone today but can only do harm,” he told the news conference. The Visegrad leaders failed to come up with a common stance on whether to support Tusk in his bid for reappointment as the Council’s chief next week. Poland said on Tuesday it would oppose it. “There is no common stance as far as the Visegrad Group countries are concerned,” Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at the news conference.
The group, however, agreed to prod Brussels to end “double standards” in food. Some firms use cheaper ingredients in food brands sold in Eastern Europe than in the West. Viktor Orbán said that the EU applies “double standards” concerning food products, and “citizens of central Europe are considered second class”. The European Commission turned a deaf ear to earlier complaints that some suppliers were dumping inferior products in central and eastern Europe, he said, adding that Visegrád cooperation will take a pro-active role and promote rules to discontinue that practice. Robert Fico said if the European Commision did not act, Slovakia might trigger a public petition, which under EU law would force it to draft legislation.
via MTI and Reuters; photos: Balázs Szecsődi – kormany.hu