“Brussels cannot have an effect on areas that fall within a national sphere of competence, such as education, healthcare, or social policy, but it does interfere by including into funding policy conditions that serve Western European goals and interests”, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology’s Parliamentary State Secretary Tamás Schanda said at a professional conference in Budapest on Thursday.

At the conference organised by the Bertalan Szemere Research Centre of the Gáspár Károli University of the Reformed Church’s Faculty of Political Science and Law, the State Secretary added that Brussels is setting conditions with relation to funding with which it is interfering in the affairs of the given member state in a clandestine manner. “Amongst others, this is causing distortive effects with relation to certain political fields in the countries of Central Europe”, he stated.

Mr. Schanda said that the balance of the 15 years since Hungary’s accession to the European Union indicates that the country has stood up on its own two feet and learned that it can stand up for its own interests, while cohesion policy is now being shaped to fit the administration’s endeavours, and the related disputes are also being taken head on.

He declared that following the regime changes in Central and Eastern Europe, the region’s states thought that they could finally take their fate into their own hands. “They looked to the EU with great hope and undertook everything that the luckier Western European states determined with great trust, so that they could become members of a community. However, Western Europe saw the political and business opportunity within the accession process. Via the Copenhagen Criteria, the EU determined legal, political and economic conditions for countries who finally felt that the time was right to be part of the joint European alliance of economies and interests”, the State Secretary explained.

“Prospective members had to one-sidedly accept the community legislation and had to open their markets prior to having reinforced their economies, which had been weakened during the transition, and they also had to accept the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. As a result of EU rhetoric launching an accession race, a harmful economic competition began between the states of Central Europe”, he added.

Mr. Schanda said that Hungary initially had little room for manoeuvre with relation to cohesion policy: “While in the 2004-2006 and 2007-2013 periods the defining criterium in strategic planning was to conform to EU preferences, meaning that in essence there was no domestic development policy concept, the guidelines in planning for the 2014-2020 period was how to place cohesion policy funding into the service of Hungary’s interests”.

“The Hungarian government recognised the fact that Western Europe has no intention of giving the Central European region the role of equal competitor, and accordingly its proposals also fail to provide an intervention package that could lead to full cohesion”, he explained. “The Hungarian model is a success because it did not follow the EU recommendations, but instead Hungary developed its own model to enforce its own interests”, he pointed out.

According to the State Secretary, cohesion funding may be regarded as compensation for Hungary having transferred major resources to the Western member states as a result of its accession, while subjecting its own economy to major losses.

(Ministry of Innovation and Technology/MTI)