Public stakeholders event in Budapest
On 20 February 2014 Political Capital Institute and Open Society Institute organized a series of debates in Budapest related to the “New Pact for Europe – Strategic Options for Europe’s Future” project. During the debates journalists, politicians, representatives of NGO-s, and the audience (more than 70 participants) expressed their views on the five strategic options for the future of Europe as outlined in New Pact for Europe project.
Following a presentation of the five strategic options by Janis A. Emmanouilidis, Director of Studies of the European Policy Centre and Péter Krekó, President of Political Capital Institute, they opened the debate by asking which of the five options of “back to basics”, “consolidating past achievements”, "moving ahead ambitiously", “leaping forward” or “changing the 'more/less Europe' logic” is the best solution for Europe’s recent crisis, and how these options fit the national context of Hungary.
Árpád Tóta W., journalist of the liberal-leaning hvg.hu referring to the options said that „thing should be considered from an European perspective. The 5th option is not a real scenario, rather telling jokes. I am a supporter of the United States of Europe, I do not think the other options would be not legitim, but I think they are not viable. (…) I would like to avoid ideology, starting with the bottom of the Maslow’s Hierarchy. The debates of the international politics can reach sometimes the ’let’s play it out’ level. (…)European states on cannot finance the development and maintenance needed for their military security on their own.”
András Stumpf, journalist from the conservative weekly Heti Valasz questioned the federalist option saying „the European federalism could only be accomplished after the demise of the nation states, not in a cultural sense of course. I would not rule this option out in the long run, but now there is not much reality for it. The nation states do not exist because of some backward thinking. (…) The free movement of labour and capital – which are good – are already given, we do not need a joint European President for this. (…) There is no need for a political integration which would be the essence of a federalist Europe. There are no foundations and public need for the latter.”
György Schöpflin, MEP of the governmental party Fidesz questioned the „single Europe” concept behind the five options. Mr. Schöpflin stated „I see at least four possible Europes or aspirations about Europe. (…) There is the Commission’s Europe which is an apolitic, hidden technocracy. (…) The other Europe is pc-Europe, the human rights approach of Europe where the values are more important than facts. The third Europe is the anti-Europe who we call extremists or eurosceptics, but there are countries in which 20-25 % of the population favours them (…) At last, there is the ’old Europe’ where partners mutually respect eachother, the bigger states respecting the smaller ones. The integration process is in crisis because we do not know which Europe we really want.”
Péter Balázs, former European Commissioner and Foreign Minister, currently acting as the Director of Center for European Enlargement Studies at CEU acknowledged the merits of the proposal because it generates debate. He considered the outline as „business menu”, saying „I do not like business menus, here we have four business menus and an apéritif at the end. The 5th option is not a real option, rather an appetizer. The whole concept assumes that the root of the problems is the economic crisis which undermined the weak foundations of the Euro. There are many problems in fact, there has been a constitutional crisis earlier, and before that there was a global competitiveness crisis. There is a latent crisis of expansion (…)” The director emphasized the need for the European Parliament and for the Commission to be more political and have more direct legitimiacy by the voters: practically bearing more responsibility resembling more the national parliaments. Péter Balázs underlined at the same time that the Union is heading towards some direction and can prosper.”
Gábor Fodor, President of the Hungarian Liberal Party and former MP considered the materials of the New Pact for Europe a good summary of the European challenges. He expressed support for a stronger federation of the European states, leaning towards option 3 and option 4. Fodor said that the problems of the EU have „psychological and material aspects” at the same time. There needs to be something for which the people can be enthusiastic, and this can be the freedom in Europe.”
István Hegedűs, President of the Hungarian Europe Society interpreted the options as being focused on institutions which is quite different from the Hungarian discourse about the European Union.
In his opinion „federalism could be strengthened by stronger competition between parties on the European level and by stronger European institutions”.
Péter József Martin, Executive Director at Transparency International Hungary pointed out that the wishes and the reality must be separated, so he would vote for option 4, but „the reality lies between option 2 and 3, stagnation or a gradual progress towards federalism”.
Márton Gyulyás, manager of the Krétakör Theater also expressed support for the federalist option – but in a broader sense, including the stronger cultural cooperation of the Union based on regions.
István Vágó, television host raised the question whether „if there is a crisis, is this still prevalent regarding the Euro? Is the crisis solely a problem of the European Union or it extends to the whole world?”
According to the votes of the participants of the conference, and even the votes of the readers of the most popular news websites in Hungary Index.hu that reported on the event the fourth option proved to be the most popular. http://index.hu/kulfold/ep/2014/02/20/epitgessuk_az_eut_vagy_hagyjuk_az_egeszet/