Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács stressed at an international meeting held in Berlin that, instead of “declarations and teachings” that mostly come from the western part of Europe, the future of the European Union must be built on agreement among the Member States.

At the conference organised by the British Royal Institute of International Affairs – widely known as Chatham House after its headquarters in London – and the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK), he argued that we need not “rush ahead”. We must first take our time and review the functioning of European integration and the results it has achieved so far. We must then carefully shape the path for the further development of the European Union in a way which duly takes account of the different “heritages” of the individual countries and regions.

Mr Kovács added that the affairs on which Member States are prepared to further strengthen their cooperation must be separated from others, and we must re-designate the border line between the sovereignty of Member States and the powers of EU institutions.

The Hungarian experiences of the past seven years may serve as a valuable contribution to the process of common thinking. Based on these experiences, a Member State is much better equipped to cope with challenges in a flexible and effective manner than the institutions of the EU, “a remote and faceless bureaucracy”, Mr Kovács highlighted.

As he pointed out, an important conclusion of the processes that have unfolded in the region extending from the Baltic states to the Western Balkans is that one cannot solve all problems through mere institutional reforms and the adoption of rules. One must recognise that this region arrived in the EU with a different heritage, and is in a different situation compared with the countries that joined earlier.

He pointed out in this context that the population and governments of the Central European region are committed supporters of the EU which is not at odds with the fact that on some issues, including rather important issues, “they do not share Brussels’ vision”.

After the meeting the Government Spokesperson attended a background discussion in the company of German journalists where he was questioned on a number of issues, such as that the infringement procedures instituted against Hungary due to the NGO law, the amendment of the higher education legislation and the rejection of the refugee quotas have been referred to the court. Mr Kovács highlighted that the Government expected this move on the part of the European Commission, and stands by its position.

Regarding the refugee quotas, he said that the system is not only unreasonable and impractical, but also affects national sovereignty, and Hungary is not prepared to resign its right to decide independently who may live in the country. He added that Hungary has taken in far more refugees on a voluntary basis than would have been required on the basis of the quota system, and in contrast to claims to the contrary, it is doing a great deal for communities in need of help which live in crisis zones.

He observed – in the context of the fact that not only the Member States now referred to the European Court of Justice fail to observe the quotas – that the EU should abstain from applying double standards.

He underlined regarding the NGO legislation: George Soros’s activities clearly indicate that there has never been a greater need yet for ensuring the transparency of organisations funded from abroad.

Speaking about the amendment of the higher education law, he highlighted that all higher education institutions, including Central European University (CEU) must comply with the statutory regulations.

Mr Kovács was also questioned about French head of state Emmanuel Macron’s reform ideas. He underlined in this regard that it is just one plan of many, and there are another 27 Member States. He indicated that the Visegrád country group (V4) will also release proposals regarding the future of the EU. Members of the country group will discuss them at a conference to be held at the beginning of 2018 as part of the programme of the Hungarian V4 Presidency.