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Hungary's President: EU Presidency Must Be Team Player, Initiator

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TEHRAN, March 10 (ICANA) – Former MEP and Olympic champion, Hungarian President Pál Schmitt sees his country's Presidency of the EU Council as "team work" that has to fulfill a "dual task".
Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:05:16 PM
Hungary's President: EU Presidency Must Be Team Player, Initiator

After addressing the Parliament on Wednesday, he shared with us his experience during Hungary's turn at the EU helm. He also explained his plans for the Danube region and looked back at the polemic caused by the reform of the Hungarian media law.

Q: How does your previous experience as an MEP help you in your role as Hungary's President, especially as it is presiding over the Council?

I see that things in life build upon each other. All I did previously in my career helps my presidential work. As a sportsperson I trained steadily, my service as a diplomat taught me how to represent my country abroad and as an MEP and vice-president of the EP, I learned how to represent national interests in a way that respected community interests. I can say that I profited the most from my role as an MEP.

Q: To use the language of sport the Hungarian presidency is approaching half-time. How would you assess the match?

All presidencies must fulfill a dual task, to be team player and to take on the role of the initiator. For us, teamwork meant that we were part of a trio with Spain and Belgium.  We had to continue big, general European objectives, for which we could not come up with our own initiatives. This is the compulsory practice, to use again the language of sport. During this six months we will deal with major community priorities, including the economy, energy diversification, modifications to the Common Agricultural Policy and enlargement and on the other hand, we have our own priorities like the Danube strategy, the Roma strategy, Eastern European partnership and enlargement with Balkan countries.

We will do our utmost to meet these objectives but sometimes history rewrites our intentions. Now, the unexpected situation in the Middle-East has diverted attention from our objectives. As the Presidency our task was to negotiate a common European position.

Q: In your speech to MEPs you highlighted the Danube strategy. What is the biggest potential of this project?

Europe thinks in terms of regions. Several regional organisations exist, like the Baltic Sea strategy or the Barcelona process. A Central European co-operation is being formed at the moment with the Danube as a linking force and a symbol. The 14 countries involved will match their objectives and pool their resources in terms of water management, energy, transport, culture and environment. As with the Roma strategy, the EU should take the role of leader and promote community interests.

Q: At the beginning of the Presidency, much of Parliament's attention focused on issues like the controversial media law. Were you expecting it?

When the new Hungarian government started work it undertook a huge restructuring job - to tackle economic problems, public health issues, the pension system, education, safety. The media law was part of this process. We felt it necessary to reconsider some of our media regulations to protect young people and human dignity in general. I am totally aware of the fact that it is a sensitive subject. We experienced strong resistance, especially from the online media that enjoys the most freedom and has never been regulated.

The government was open towards reconsidering some elements that might breach European media policy or the constitution. So the legislation was translated and sent to the Commission for feedback. Government has listened to their objections and made modifications and the controversy has calmed down.

Q: You have had a very diverse career, double Olympic champion, politician, MEP for almost 7 years and now President. What are your personal goals?

Here I'd like to share an important life lesson hoping that it will reach young readers. Instead of setting long-term objectives, we should concentrate on the tasks ahead. If life assigns us a responsibility, we should do our best to solve it successfully. I myself learn new things every day.

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