Hungary's President Pál Schmitt: Why a Europe Whole and Free Still Matters
Despite the resounding financial arm wrestling, the European community is still rooted in very solid values. Despite all the changes, solidarity and its main pillars (values based on Greek philosophy, Roman law and Judeo-Christian ideals) have prevailed during Europe’s continuing integration.
The people of Central-Eastern Europe, who suffered for decades from Soviet oppression, greatly benefited from the open doors of the European Union.
Central and Eastern Europeans always identified themselves as Europeans and for their part never broke away from Europe. The role of the United States of America was invaluable in ensuring that the Euro-Atlantic community was open to enlargement. The US not only presented the ethos of freedom and democracy, but also provided tangible assistance in creating it. America gave us the most by placing its trust in our countries. By proving that America is serious about its global role and is aware of the responsibility that comes with this role, America also proved that moral virtues withstand the test of time and still exist in international politics.
Central and Eastern European countries were initially regarded with caution in the European Union. But we have brought useful new knowledge, freshness, openness and substantial economic potential to the EU.
The Union today needs our dynamism.
Hungary has shown outstanding results this year when it comes to consolidating the state budget and reducing our indebtedness. It was precisely thanks to the work of the Hungarian EU presidency that the 27 EU member states committed themselves to a new, closer policy of fiscal cooperation, and decided to introduce greater budget discipline with better supervision. A strong Europe can only be composed of strong states. It is in the interest of the world and of our most important ally, the United States, to have Europe stand strong.
Yet the uncertainty that has become permanent in so many areas is now keeping the fate of whole countries on a perpetual roller-coaster, thus shaking the lives of individuals everywhere. One has to jump with courage. We now have to reform a series of badly functioning systems, which up until now were considered to be unchangeable. What we need now are conditions that make us more resistant to crisis, which ensure development and preserve competitiveness.
Hungary as a responsible EU member state has made a huge leap toward stability and competitiveness. The new fundamental law of Hungary that will enter into effect on January 1, 2012, marks a new beginning in economic terms. It contains very strong constitutional provisions to reduce the national debt. It prohibits the further increase of public debt and prescribes the reduction of the public debt to at least fifty percent of GDP . I believe that this strong legislative limitation will make Hungarians’ future more predictable.
We consider transatlantic cooperation within NATO to be the most factor providing long term security and stability; we also share America’s mission of combating terrorism. Ensuring our security is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges, in which the USA is playing an outstanding role, with the European Union playing its part. The United States of America and Hungary have an excellent allied relationship in a number of areas in the transatlantic context. This summer several events in Budapest showcased our transatlantic commitment. We unveiled Ronald Reagan’s statue, Secretary of State Hillary Clintonmet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the two of them inaugurated the Tom Lantos Institute, named after the Hungarian-born, former US Congressman with the mission to conduct research on human rights in the Central and Eastern European region. We also hosted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who attended the Freedom Dinner in Budapest. True bonds can only be created based on shared values. We have plenty of such shared values and we aim to spread them.
In 2011 during the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, we turned our attention to the revolutions in the Arab world. Hungary is proud of the work it has done as one of the only European embassies to remain open in the Libyan capital, where we also represented the United States and the EU. We were instrumental in assuring the release and freeing several journalists – some of them Americans – from Libya. We have to do our utmost to provide everything these countries require, offer the assistance of the EU and its member states as well as share our own experience of transition, so that the Arab Spring could then lead to Arab democracies.
Mr. Pál Schmitt is the President of the Republic of Hungary.