Hungary takes over rotating EU presidency

11:41, January 01, 2011      

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Hungarian President Pal Schmitt reminded his countrymen of broader responsibilities as the Central European nation took over the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) on Saturday.

In a televised address to the nation just after midnight Friday, he said during the six-month presidency, Hungary's task was to improve the lives of not just its own countrymen but those of hundreds of millions of Europeans.

"Hungary will earn respect if it can show that it is able to look after not just its own fate but if required the fate of others as well," Schmitt said.

The primary priority of the presidency is to protect the euro and to work towards the setting up of mechanisms to deal with economic crises such as those that have affected Greece and Ireland in 2010, according to the country's EU presidency website.

Hungary will also be pushing member countries for progress with policies of particular interest to Central Europe, it said. These include the "Danube Strategy" which promotes multi-faceted development of the Danube "macro-region" which includes eight EU countries that the river flows through as well as six non-EU countries.

Progress of negotiations on Croatia's entry into the EU will be particularly highlighted, as will the expansion of the passport-free Schengen zone to Romania and Bulgaria. In May, Budapest will host a summit of the Eastern Partnership, a part of the EU's neighborhood policy which aims to develop links with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The direction of EU energy policy will also come under the spotlight when Budapest hosts an energy summit in February. Moreover, Hungary plans to encourage the finalization of a comprehensive EU strategy on the Roma. Hungary is home to one of the Europe's largest Roma communities.

Hungary, which joined the 27-nation bloc in 2004, will formally take over the presidency from Belgium on Jan. 6 and will hand over it to Poland in July.

Source: Xinhua
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