Hungary looks to a new era

Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, who recently made an official visit to Greece at the end of last month, spoke to Kathimerini about the need to strengthen relations between Hungary and Greece, particularly in the economic and commercial sectors. How do you see Hungary’s future in Europe and its relationship with the European Union? Hungary has always been in the lead during the accession negotiations and was considered to be the best-prepared candidate. This was proven by the fact that when members of the European Parliament voted on the accession of the candidates, Hungary got one of the highest number of votes. One should not forget that accession does not only mean that we will be a member of a community of values that we share, but that we shall participate as fully fledged members in forming this community. There are numerous other questions that we will have to think of in relation to the Union. Let me quote a few examples: What are the tasks and objectives we wish the Union to perform and achieve? What will the Union’s role be in the world in Europe and in Hungary? We have to assess the challenges facing the Union, the changes in the organization that will also affect us and will probably soon be on the agenda. Accession is not only about the increasing number of member countries in the Union. The consequences of this are much more important. What is the Hungarian position regarding the reconstruction of Iraq and the tension between the two sides of the Atlantic over the Iraq war? The issue of the internal consolidation of Iraq is in my opinion now more than hopeful. I am convinced that thanks to the efforts of the international community this is soon going to be a fact. The security situation for the time being is very tense, but processes have started which will sooner or later lead to the normalization of life. Thus I welcome the establishment of the basic structures of administration – primarily the Iraqi Governing Council and the appointment of a Cabinet of Ministers, the setting up of the new Iraqi police and miliary force – because it is an important prerequisite of Iraq’s return to the international community and its international recognition to have the control over the country returned to the hands of the Iraqi people. I am of the opinion that contribution to the establishment of security and public order is a general international interest. This is not only rhetoric, despite the fact that from time to time we see significant differences of opinion between certain countries in relation to the stabilization of Iraq. I sincerely hope that the debate over the latest United Nations Security Council resolution will result in a solution. We support the approach according to which the EU has to take part in the political and economic reconstruction, but at the same time we aspire to a process of reconstruction in Iraq that would not make more serious the difficulties existing between the USA and European powers, so that this process could serve to strengthen and not weaken transatlantic relations. What is Hungary’s contribution to the reconstruction process in Iraq? Using her own means, Hungary is trying to play an efficient and active role in the reconstruction of Iraq. We are of the opinion that UN Security Council Resolution 1483 provided a mandate for international peacekeeping and thus we have sent a 300-strong peacekeeping contingent to the international force deployed in the central region of Iraq under Polish leadership. However, Hungary would be ready to undertake further responsibilities in the consolidation of Iraq. What is your view of Greek-Hungarian relations? Is there sufficient cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of tourism and trade? I am of the opinion that our bilateral relations are based on strong sympathy between our people. The Greek EU presidency is deemed to have been a success, and I would like to use this occasion to express our gratitude for the assistance we have received in our accession process. Our accession to the EU puts us on the threshold of a new situation, which will influence our relations for a long time. We are going to be members of the very same institutions for the first time in history. I think that the opportunity exists to give direction to an evolution in our ties: the modernization of structures in our economic ties, the establishment of a bilateral joint forum, common thinking and action in the interest of stability and development in the Balkans. Despite the favorable trends, we still cannot be satisfied with the current levels of trade. The development of the two countries, their relative proximity to each other and last but not least Hungary’s imminent EU membership, can give new impetus not only to bilateral trade, but to the total spectrum of economic ties.