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EU Presidency - PM Orbán pledges presidency will fulfill tasks

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pledged that Hungary would fulfill all tasks of the European Union's presidency and said economic issues and the euro will be top concerns.

The euro is the most important tool of European integration, its protection and strengthening is a European priority, Orbán told a press conference starting the country's six-month presidency. The euro and the EU will be in a better shape by June, at the end of the Hungarian presidency, he added.

He said the key topics of the presidency will be improved fiscal rigor, enlargement in the EU, energy security and a Roma strategy.

Hungary plans to show an example in financial stringency and keep its budget deficit below 3% of GDP in 2011 while reducing state debt, Orbán said.

Hungary's presidency can take Europe one step closer to enhanced competitiveness, he added.

Orbán said the presidency will be successful if the amendment of the Lisbon Treaty is completed in the six months ahead and if six pieces of legislation aimed at crisis management are approved.

He said EU enlargement, the second on the priority list, will require a stimulation of “enlargement optimism” which will include confidence in the integration of the Balkan countries.

The Hungarian presidency supports Croatia's EU membership and Romania and Bulgaria's bid to join the visa-free Schengen zone, he said. Serbia, too, will be given a clear perspective regarding its future membership, he added.

Energy issues include plans to link Slovak and Hungarian gas pipelines and in the long-term to create a north-south energy network from Poland to Croatia, Orbán said.

Asked about Hungary's new crisis tax levied on certain business sectors, Orbán said the sectors must take part in efforts to regain the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy, in the spirit of shared responsibility. He rejected the claim that companies had been discriminated against based on nationality, arguing that both in the energy and banking sector Hungarian players had been the biggest contributors. (MTI – Econews)