“National Solutions to Regional Challenges”, keynote speech by the President of Hungary H.E. Pál Schmitt

(September 9th, 2011, 12:30 o’clock, Sheraton Hotel, Sofia)

The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria together with the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian School of Politics, and with the support of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, organized a keynote speech by the President of Hungary H.E. Pál Schmitt, entitled “National Solutions to Regional Challenges”.

Pal Schmitt began his speech by thanking the Atlantic Club for the invitation and the opportunity to speak before such a distinguished forum. He addressed the question of the economic crisis and the negative consequences it has on people’s trust in Politics. He believes that the postponement of the issues is not a valid solution to the problems of the European Union. The EU is about to undergo a lot of changes in order to build crises-proof structures, and not simply to respond to problems in the short term. According to Mr. Schmidt, the solution to these problems will require sacrifices from both distressed and strong partners, and will be the result of both sides accepting responsibility.

According to Pal Schmitt economic crisis is forcing states to cut the expenses in all sectors of the state apparatus, including defense. However, economic difficulties should not hamper the defense capabilities. A possible answer to this dilemma in the short term may be the joint projects and sharing resources. In the long term, however, security should be based on the realization of economic potential. And although it is normal for the Western countries to shift their economic relations to the emerging economies, Mr. Schmidt called for strengthening the economic cooperation in transatlantic relations in the name of security.

According to Pal Schmitt, the economic crisis is the result of irresponsible economic and political decisions. Although the introduction of the Euro targeted economic growth, today’s stability-ensuring mechanisms are inefficient. In addition, since the common monetary policy does not go together with a general economic policy, there is some accumulated tension in the system. These economic problems, seen in the large debts and high deficit in some countries, can be resolved only through hard work and common efforts.

Pal Schmitt believes that the grim prognoses for the collapse of the Euro are once again wrong. While not denying the seriousness of the problem, he sees the crisis as an opportunity to rethink the current practices and eliminate errors, due to which the economies of Member States will emerge from the crisis more stable and strengthened. The objective of the European Union is not just to leave the crisis period, but to restore the economic growth to the levels before the crisis.

Pal Schmitt reassured that Hungary is also aiming at the path of economic redevelopment, a task which is neither easy nor foreseeable in the short term.  However, Hungary makes an important step, which may serve as an example to the rest of Europe, namely, the restriction of the possibility to increase the levels of debt in the national constitution. Pal Schmitt warned that such measures must comply with the democratic legitimacy - to be established by the Member States themselves and not be imposed from the outside. The imposition of measures would not bring steadfast solution to the crisis as it cannot be tailored to the individuality of the economies in the EU.

Pal Schmitt explicated that these measures are not aiming at improving the current set of indicators and, more recently, leaving the path of economic stability and growth. Mr. Schmidt warned that the forthcoming years will not be marked by economic growth and prosperity, but by hard work, clear set of objectives and cohesion, which results will be seen in the medium term. This, he believes, is our responsibility to future generations, our children and grandchildren.

Pal Schmitt continued by addressing the challenges to the security policy. He said the crisis is not the reason, but the accelerator behind the rise of new powers, and that NATO's role in the collective security is increasingly important. One of the most prominent examples is the last decade, which was marked by the war against terrorism, a challenge which, as demonstrated by events in Norway, is still present.

Mr. Pal Schmitt drew the attention to the issue of cyber-attacks and the new horizons of the term "security." They are the reason behind states paying more attention recently to the security of the information systems, which are fundamental to the modern society. He believes that attacks on the information infrastructures can be equally devastating as those made in the traditional way. According to Pal Schmitt, the transatlantic cooperation in the future will be the cornerstone of security. As shown by the recent events in Libya, Europe should and can play a leading role in the field of security and the military action under the auspices of transatlantic cooperation.

Pal Schmitt continue by focusing on Central Europe. He assured that Hungary will continue to attach great importance to the bilateral relations with Bulgaria and will continue to relentlessly insist on  Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area. Moreover, he assured that the possibilities for energy trade and goods through the Black Sea gives new values ​​to the region and the transport corridors.

According to Pal Schmitt one of the successes of the security policy in the region is the accession of new members into NATO. According to him, the accession of Montenegro is both possible and necessary. According to Mr. Schmidt, the most important aspect for the global confidence in the EU is the success in the Balkans, as it is not possible to seek a global leadership without first achieving results in the neighboring regions. Such a result is the closing the negotiations with Croatia. He pointed out that for Hungary, which is a relatively new member of the EU, is a priority to provide the potential member-states from the region with the possibility to access the peace and prosperity that the EU and NATO have symbolized over the past 60 years. For this reason, Pal Schmitt sees Croatia as a new impetus for European integration of Western Balkans.

Pal Schmitt confirmed the official position of the EU and the international community that the countries of former Yugoslavia can not be founded on the basis of ethnicity.While misperceptions of cultural diversity were behind the greatest tragedies in the Balkans, the traditions of tolerance and coexistence date long before today’s meaning of these terms, thus must be maintained.

Pal Schmitt finished his speech, by thanking again for the invitation. He believes that the Atlantic Club in Sofia will play an important role in the future, and will contribute to the realization of the benefits of the transatlantic cooperation in the region, which is a common task in today's reality and challenges. This cooperation will guarantee freedom and democracy, solidarity and justice, and peace and prosperity in the region.
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