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Orbán’s valuation at presidency midterm –Euractiv

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán presented his country's accomplishments halfway through its EU presidency in Brussels on April 14. Pre-empting tough questions on Hungarian internal politics, Orbán lashed out at some of Europe's "absurdities" Euractiv reported.

The Hungarian Presidency had successfully reached "half time" in the match, former professional football player Orbán said, using sports terminology. But he added that all the "goals" were scored in "the first five minutes" of the second half, referring to the first few days of April.

He portrayed as a success the last Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting, which dealt with the immigration challenge posed by the recent Arab revolutions. France and Italy clashed at this meeting, while most EU countries rejected recourse to a "temporary protection" mechanism, which would have allowed the immigration burden to be shared more fairly between the bloc's member states.

Orbán also described as successes the EU's Danube Strategy, adopted the previous day by foreign ministers in Luxembourg, as well as a recent European Parliament resolution on the 'EU Strategy on Roma Inclusion' and European Commission's proposal for an 'EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies'.

Unwillingness for enlargement

On the negative side, Orbán voiced disappointment over what he called a delay in Croatia's accession talks. Orbán said that support for enlargement had never been lower than it was now. "There are doubts, there are reservations, there are fears, there are uncertainties: these are the key words attached to enlargement," he said. "I cannot dramatise the situation, because it's already dramatic," he concluded.

Asked about Macedonia's membership bid, Orbán said this was "the toughest issue". "If I should characterize this situation, I would say that it's the embodiment of absurdity," he said emphatically. Orbán said he was tired of having to remember that as EU presidency holder he must call the country "FYROM". Hungary recognizes Macedonia under its constitutional name, but due to the position of Greece, which refuses to recognize its small neighbor under this name, the EU institutions refer to it as "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". "This is an absurdity. An absurdity unimaginable in Europe," Orbán repeated.

Schengen bids not supported

Similarly, Orbán deplored delays to the accession of the EU's newest members to the borderless Schengen area. Both Romania and Bulgaria were expected to join this spring, but their accession was delayed mainly due to the opposition of France and Germany. Paris in particular insists that Sofia and Bucharest must improve their judiciary and law enforcement, neither of which are criteria for joining Schengen. Despite having a document which shows that these two countries are sufficiently prepared to join the Schengen area, there is no political support, Orbán lamented.

New constitution this week

EurActiv asked Orbán whether a vote on the country's new constitution, scheduled in parliament this week, was not "a match played in an empty stadium without an opponent". The prime minister responded he was very proud that the final vote on the new constitution would take place in parliament "this week".  He added that if the other team doesn't show up, maybe they don't want to play the game.