9 September 2011, 12:30 h, Sheraton Hotel, Sofia
On 9 September 2011, at 12:30 h, at the Sheraton Hotel, in 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. Pсl Schmitt, entitled “National Solutions to Regional Challenges”.
In his speech, Pal Schmitt addressed the question of the economic crisis and the negative consequences it had on people’s trust in politics. He believed that the postponement of the issues was not a valid solution to the problems of the European Union. The EU was 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 would require sacrifices from both distressed and strong partners, and would be the result of both sides accepting responsibility.
According to Pal Schmitt, the economic crisis was forcing states to cut expenses in all sectors of the state apparatus, including defense; however, economic difficulties should not hamper defense capabilities. A possible answer to this dilemma in the short term might be joint projects and sharing resources. In the long term, however, security should be based on the realization of economic potential.
According to Pal Schmitt, the economic crisis was the result of irresponsible economic and political decisions. Although the introduction of the euro targeted economic growth, today’s stability-ensuring mechanisms were inefficient. In addition, since the common monetary policy did not go together with a general economic policy, there was some accumulated tension in the system. These economic problems, seen in the large debts and high deficit in some countries, could be resolved only through hard work and common efforts.
Pal Schmitt believed that the grim prognoses for the collapse of the euro were once again wrong. While not denying the seriousness of the problem, he saw the crisis as an opportunity to rethink the current practices and eliminate errors, due to which the economies of Member States would emerge from the crisis more stable and strengthened. The objective of the European Union was not just to leave the crisis period, but to restore the economic growth to the levels before the crisis.
Pal Schmitt reassured that Hungary was also aiming at the path of economic redevelopment – a task that was neither easy, nor foreseeable in the short term. However, Hungary made an important step, which might 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 could not be tailored to the individuality of the economies in the EU.
Pal Schmitt continued by addressing the challenges to the security policy. He said the crisis was not the reason, but the accelerator behind the rise of new powers, and that NATO’s role in the collective security was increasingly important. One of the most prominent examples was the last decade, which was marked by the war against terrorism, a challenge that, as demonstrated by events in Norway, was still present.
Mr. Pal Schmitt drew the attention to the issue of cyber-attacks and the new horizons of the term “security.” They were the reason behind states paying more attention recently to the security of the information systems, which were fundamental to the modern society. He believed that attacks on the information infrastructures could be equally devastating as those made in the traditional way. According to Pal Schmitt, transatlantic cooperation in the future would be the cornerstone of security. As shown by the recent events in Libya, Europe should and could play a leading role in the field of security and military action under the auspices of transatlantic cooperation.
Pal Schmitt continue by focusing on Central Europe. He assured that Hungary would continue to attach great importance to bilateral relations with Bulgaria and would 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 gave new values to the region and the transport corridors.
According to Pal Schmitt, one of the successes of the security policy in the region was the accession of new members in NATO. According to him, the accession of Montenegro was both possible and necessary. According to Mr. Schmidt, the most important aspect for the global confidence in the EU was the success in the Balkans, as it was not possible to seek global leadership without first achieving results in the neighboring regions. Such a result was the closing of the negotiations with Croatia. He pointed out that for Hungary, which was a relatively new member of the EU, it was a priority to provide potential Member States from the region with the possibility to access the peace and prosperity that the EU and NATO had symbolized over the past 60 years. For this reason, Pal Schmitt saw Croatia as a new impetus for the European integration of Western Balkans.
Pal Schmitt confirmed the official position of the EU and the international community that the countries of former Yugoslavia could 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 dated long before today’s meaning of these terms, thus must be maintained.