The past few years cannot be regarded as the most successful period of European cooperation. The latest enlargements of the European Union were its last achievements: the accession of ten states, including Hungary, in 2004, followed by the accession of another three countries, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated in the Parliament Building on Thursday.

Gergely Gulyás said at the awards ceremony of the essay contest for college and university students entitled ‘Hungary and the Central European Region in the European Union, the European Union in the World’ that the enlargement process showed that once in the future it would indeed be possible to speak of European unity.

Also today there are candidate countries which could be admitted to the EU as early as tomorrow given their state of advancement; however, the EU does not appear to be capable of admitting new states. One of the greatest tasks of the next 5 years will be to achieve a change in this, in order to make participation in institutionalised European cooperation a realistic alternative also for the Balkans region, the Minister stressed.

The experiences of Hungary’s 15 years of EU membership are mixed, Mr Gulyás pointed out. He said they believe that when you are a member of a club, you must be given a meaningful say in its operation. He took the view that it is not compulsory to praise everything, there is also room for criticism.

In the past 5 years, not only has the EU not been enlarged, but it has in actual fact shrunk: it has lost its Member State with the second largest economy in the community. In some countries, the EU is no longer as attractive as it once was, the Minister said in evaluation.

In his words, the EU has been unable to effectively manage the major crises of the past ten years, the economic and migration crises.

Despite this, there is no alternative to European cooperation, and the government believes that Hungary has no choice but to form part of the European Union, Mr Gulyás stated.

The Minister expressed hope that with the European parliamentary elections on Sunday the continent could change direction.

Gábor Zupkó, Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Hungary said European states are being faced with ever more challenges on an enormous scale; challenges which they can only respond to together, at an EU level. He mentioned illegal immigration and climate change as examples.

At the same time, the fundamental principle remains that anything that can be resolved successfully at a national level must be managed nationally, he stressed.

Mr Zupkó took the view that we need experts who have a broad horizon, recognise common European interests, but also understand national considerations.

In addition to Mr Gulyás and Mr Zupkó, Speaker of the House László Kövér also took part in the handing over of the prizes.

Five applicants were awarded prizes; in their essays, they addressed the EU’s multiannual financial framework for the period beyond 2020, the Visegrád cooperation, the EU’s enlargement policy, forestry issues, and the situation of autochthonous national communities.

A large number of applicants – students from both the motherland and from beyond the borders – submitted essays in the contest. Students under the age of 30 years were eligible to submit essays.

Essays were assessed by an assessment committee comprised of experts invited by the Speaker of the House.

The winner of the first prize received HUF 400,000, the second prize carried a monetary award of HUF 300,000, while the winner of the third prize received HUF 200,000. Two special award winners each received HUF 150,000. These amounts are subject to tax and a social security contribution. Beyond the monetary prizes, the awarded winners will be able to go on a several-day study trip to Brussels this year.

The Office of Parliament will also publish the awarded submissions on its website electronically, the invitation to the essay contest reads.