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Stock taking event on the “Future of Europe” conferences organised by the Ministry of Justice and the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law

2021.06.21. @ 08:00 - 09:00

Stock taking event on the “Future of Europe” conferences organised by the Ministry of Justice and the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law on 25 June 2020 titled ‘Keynote discussion on launching the Conference on the Future of Europe: Perspectives for an interinstitutional agreement, expectations of the Member States and the European institutions’ and 21 September 2020 on ‘Dialogue on the future of Europe: how to build a more effective and genuinely strong Union?’.
The stock taking event is a constructive discussion about the main conclusions of the two conferences with different actors, participants and organisers: László Trócsányi (Honorary President of the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law, Member of the European Parliament), Boglárka Bólya (Deputy State Secretary for EU Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Hungary), Ágoston Mráz (Director, Nézőpont Institute), Márton Sulyok (Lecturer at the University of Szeged, Head of the Public Law Center at MCC Budapest).

Summary of the Event

Márton Sulyok: Dear all, thank you for coming together for this stocktaking event, where we can take account of the two previous conferences organised by the Ministry of Justice and the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and share our own views on the topic. With us today are László Trócsányi MEP, Boglárka Bólya Deputy Secretary of State for EU Relations, and Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, Director of Nézőpont Institute. Mr Trócsányi, please open the discussion.

László Trócsányi: As far as the conference on the future of Europe is concerned, on the occasion of today’s conference on digitalization, it is time to take stock of what we have talked about before in this context on similar events. We have voiced our opinions regarding the need to strengthen democracy on the European level at international conferences with the participation of high-ranking European and Member State officials, such as Antonio Tajani or Karoline Edtstadler, Andreja Metelko-Zgombic, and more recently Dubravka Suica. On these events we talked about Member State and institutional expectations regarding the foundations of the dialogue and the conference. We’ve also touched upon the key issue of national (constitutional) identity, protected by the famous Article 4(2) of the TEU, and the problems regarding its respect by the EU, as prescribed by the above article. In other aspects, we’ve asked Hungarian and international civil society organizations to contribute to the dialogue and talked with them about ensuring the balanced and diverse participation of citizens.

Márton Sulyok: Thank you Mr Trócsányi. State Secretary Bólya, we can see that Hungary has been very proactive in the Conference process. What were Hungary’s views on the Conference on the Future of Europe?

Boglárka Bólya: Indeed, and we must mention that Hungary was the first Member State to begin the common deliberation, by organising two high-profile international conferences on the future of the EU, on 25 June and 21 September 2020.

I would now like to recall some of the thoughts of Judit Varga Hungarian Minister of Justice expressed during the conference held in 25 June 2020. She highlighted that in the past 10 years, Hungary has taken an active role in various debates about fundamental issues of the European Union, including debates on the balance of power, or questions of sovereignty, stressing, that respectful debates on theoretical principles are indeed important, yet these must not be circumscribed by abstract ideological contemplations only. She argued that Europe must address issues that directly affect European citizens, including issues of efficiency and competitiveness, maintaining that Hungarians believe in a strong Europe based on strong nation-states and Europe can only be strong if its Member States are strong. In her view, Europe should always embrace and defend its diversity, including its Christian roots and Christian values. She expressed her hope that European institutions will continue to respect the principle of subsidiarity, and stated that sovereignty must stay as close to the people as possible. To this end, the role of national parliaments is absolutely essential during the Conference process, and the Conference should be inclusive in with all three institutions are involved, fully respecting the interinstitutional balance. No single institution, region, Member State or ideology should ever dominate, and, correspondingly, the Conference ought to be chaired in a neutral manner.

In the second Conference on 21 September 2020 Minister of Justice Varga described, that after 1989, when the fall of communism brought Hungary winds of hope, joining the European Union was widely seen by citizens as an opportunity to empower the recovery process by an instrument of institutionalised cooperation, and while no one could estimate the crises faced by the European community in the past 15 years, we must use the process of reflection to learn from our mistakes and build a stronger Europe. She claimed that Hungarians have always been open to a common reflection in the name of “Unity in Diversity”, and Hungarians’ interpretation of the common motto is that while we identify mutually beneficial areas of cooperation, we must also respect areas of traditional diversity and intellectual sovereignty. The Minister of Justice also expressed, that for the past 10 years, Hungary has taken a constructive role in debates concerning fundamental issues of the European Union, including reflections on matters of sovereignty, subsidiarity, migration, and the instrumental role of Europe’s Judeo–Christian cultural heritage. She argued that the most important aspect of the Conference on the Future of Europe should be European citizens, and, as the gap between citizens and European institutions seems widening, she sees the Conference on the Future of Europe as an excellent opportunity for bringing citizens closer to the European Union. Sovereignty however must stay as close to the citizens as possible – she added, since democratic legitimacy arises from the people, the role of national parliaments is not only instrumental but absolutely essential in the process of the Conference on the Future of Europe. She also emphasised that during the Conference’s discussions, we should avoid falling into the trap of long ideological debates, the dialogue should be free of taboos, and labels must be avoided. We must use common sense to address issues that directly affect European citizen’s lives, as citizens expect concrete results. In her view, European institutions must learn from Member States. She used the best practice example of the Hungarian government, which maintains a close relationship with its citizens by conducting regular national consultations keeping it up to date with citizens’ priorities. She argued that the Conference on the Future of Europe should consider these democratic best practice examples in order to successfully address European citizens. In her final remarks, Minister Varga stressed the need to realise that enlargement policy is an essential tool of stability, it is therefore in the political, security, economic and strategic interests of the EU and for the Western Balkans region to be integrated into Europe at the earliest possible opportunity, adding that it would be an appropriate gesture to allow Western Balkan candidate countries to be given a voice in the Conference process.

Márton Sulyok: Thank you State Secretary Bólya. We have received a question from Nobert Szépvölgyi, Ambassador of the European Youth Parliament, during today’s conference on Digitalisation, which participants didn’t get a chance to answer due to the Conference’s time limitations. His question was – “what is the biggest challenge concerning the Future of Europe?”. Director Mráz, perhaps this is also a chance for you to express your views in the framework of this young citizen’s question.

Ágoston Sámuel Mráz: Certainly. The European Union is projected to lag behind China and the South East Asian region, as well as the United States, at a dramatic pace. To remain an attractive region not only due to its prosperity but also its future-orientation, it must change and adjust in a number of areas. As an example, instead of deepening integration, it would be necessary to rather strengthen the existing integration. Deepening comes with a constant change of rules, which necessarily introduces new conflicts, while strengthening only means a sense of compliance with the rules, thus predictability. The constant expansion of the European Parliament’s powers has not been reflected upon much, despite the fact that the institution is putting considerable pressure on Member States, with dubious democratic legitimacy. This hidden rearrangement of power is in fact an abuse of power. On the other hand, it would be necessary for European large companies to burgeon, especially in sectors that will continue to be crucial in the future. Digital technology, electrical mobility, biotechnology-based pharmaceuticals or nuclear technology can also be mentioned here. Forward-looking developments seem to only take place in the sector of green technology at the moment, but their global competitiveness is questionable. What can only be sold in the European Common Market will not be enough for major economic success, since the world economy will remain global even after the epidemic. Lastly, it would be important for the EU not only to come up with strategies, white papers and concepts, but also, together with enthusiastic Member States, take action. It is only in the last decade that China has overtaken the EU in the digital sphere, with the wisdom of the Second Industrial Revolution with which the undeveloped can easily overtake developed countries by a big step. The EU would have also needed to take this “big step” by regulating digital administration, services in certain sectors, and social media.

Márton Sulyok: Thank you Director Mráz. State Secretary Bólya, would you like to conclude by expressing your own view on the Future of Europe as well?

Boglárka Bólya: Agreeing with Minister of Justice Varga, I must say that after several crises in Europe, this is a timely exercise but we must avoid abstract ideological debates and focus on topics that are most important in the eyes of European citizens. The EU has finally recognized the democratic potential of involving citizens more directly. At the same time, I sadly note that citizens were not involved in the first plenary to an extent initially foreseen. Citizens must remain at the heart of the Conference on the Future of Europe. To ensure the legitimacy of the Conference, transparency must be a key element, and principles of the European Union enshrined in the Treaties, must be fully applied: the interinstitutional balance as well as equality between Member States must prevail, and respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the role of national parliaments will indeed be vital. We should expect all institutions and conference bodies to warrant that the Conference will not be hijacked by any political agenda, ideology or institution. We truly hope that the Conference is a chance to rediscover the spirit of European cooperation based on mutual respect and common sense.

Márton Sulyok: Thank you all.

 

The two conferences can be watched and listened to in these links

Keynote discussion on launching the Conference on the Future of Europe: Perspectives for an interinstitutional agreement, expectations of the Member States and the European institutions:
http://mfi.gov.hu/en/esemenyek/keynote-discussion-on-launching-the-conference-on-the-future-of-europe/

Dialogue on the future of Europe: how to build a more effective end genuinely strong Union?:
http://mfi.gov.hu/en/esemenyek/dialogue-on-the-future-of-europe-how-to-build-a-more-effective-end-genuinely-strong-union/

 

The summaries of the two future of Europe conferences can be found here

Keynote discussion on launching the Conference on the Future of Europe: Perspectives for an interinstitutional agreement, expectations of the Member States and the European institutions:
http://mfi.gov.hu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Synopsis-and-summary-report-of-the-online-conference-25-June-2020-1.pdf

Dialogue on the future of Europe: how to build a more effective end genuinely strong Union?:
http://mfi.gov.hu/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Summary-report-of-the-conference-21-September-2020-Budapest-Hungary-1.pdf

László Trócsányi
Honorary President of the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law,
Member of the European Parliament

Márton Sulyok
Lecturer at the University of Szeged,
Head of the Public Law Center at MCC Budapest

Boglárka Bólya (Deputy State Secretary for EU Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Hungary), László Trócsányi and Márton Sulyok 

Details

Date:
2021.06.21.
Time:
08:00 - 09:00

Venue

Budapest