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The future of Europe - Panel discussion on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome

The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Embassy of the Republic of Italy in Budapest organised a conference to commemorate the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on March 23 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s conference room.


In his opening remarks, Ambassador Márton Schőberl, director of IFAT recalled a personal story to highlight the achievements the EU has reached in the past 60 year, remembering the audience how anxious his family was when crossing the Austrian-Hungarian border 30 years ago. The Ambassador of Italy to Hungary, Massimo Rustico also welcomed the audience and expressed his gratitude for the guests who celebrate this great milestone event with him. He highlighted that the anniversary is a good opportunity to look into the future and give the EU a new incentive to develop further the treaties.

After the opening remarks, Zsolt Németh, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Hungarian National Assembly delivered his keynote speech in which he cherished the initiative of the Republic of Italy to hold a debate on the future of Europe. He also clarified three common misunderstandings regarding Hungary’s position on EU reforms. Chairman Németh pointed out that, firstly, the concept of “Europe of nation states” does not mean less Europe by abolishing existing competences as it is commonly believed. Secondly, he underscored that Hungary does not reject a multi-speed Europe, which can be eventually good if it helps member states to gradually integrate into the Community. Thirdly, Chairman Németh indicated that it is also a misunderstanding that Hungary is anti-European.

The event continued with the keynote address of Pier Ferdinando Casini, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the Republic of Italy. According to Chairman Casini, recent polls showed a growing distrust towards the EU by EU citizens. However, when asking those people about solutions to tackle economic problems, terrorism and manage the immigration crisis, everyone opts for more Europe. He also added that migration is hard to be tackled alone when it has become a global issue. To that end, the EU shall rebalance its relationship with Russia and lift the sanctions that is economically painful for EU member states as well.

After a short break, an expert roundtable discussion took place with the participation of dr. Richárd Hörcsik, chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the Hungarian Parliament, Prof. László Csaba of the Central European University, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and dr. Boglárka Koller, dean of the Faculty of International and European Studies of the National University of Public Service. The discussion was moderated by Márton Ugrósdy, deputy director for strategic of IFAT.

Chairman Hörcsik pinpointed that the biggest challenges for Europe are now the migration crisis, Brexit and the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations which is highly interrelated with Brexit since there will be an approximate ten billion Euro financial gap within the budget when the United Kingdom leaves the Union. He emphasised that the Union is made up of its member states, therefore, the Commission shall not exceed its competences which is currently limited to the guardianship of the treaties by being neutral in political questions.

Dean Koller also addressed the question of legitimacy crisis which, according to her, is the most severe one within the EU. She further highlighted the importance of differentiated integration. She also drew attention to the dilemma between the technocratic and political nature of the EU since nowadays a lots of European issues are politicized but only on a critical level.

Professor Csaba started by mentioning the White Book published by the European Commission which should have focused rather on the identification of the problems instead of suggesting solutions for those underlying problems which we do not know entirely. To solve the migration crisis, structural funds shall be used on a more proper way than they are used now.