EC President Barroso attends Visegrad summit


For over a year now, the Visegrad Group - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - have been members of the European Union, so it was only natural that their meeting in Budapest this week focused on European issues. The prime ministers of the four countries called on their British counterpart Tony Blair, the current EU chair, to table a new European budget proposal as soon as possible. The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was also at the meeting and agreed that delays in getting an EU budget deal would hurt the new EU member states.

For more on the Visegrad meeting, Radio Budapest spoke Jozsef Toth - head of the department for regional cooperation at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry:

"As you know, the last European Council was unable to conclude the new European budget for the years 2007-2013. This is a major issue for the member states, especially for the new member states, who would like to receive substantial funds from the European Union for their modernisation and catching up process. Mr Barroso managed to outline the Commission's proposals and opinions about the current debate - what we can do in order to conclude the budget, possibly by the end of this year, under the British presidency."

The Hungarian Prime Minister emphasised that national interests should be reconciled with EU objectives...

"Obviously, to conclude such an agreement requires certain flexibility from all partners. It should be a compromise. In that respect, we will have to look into other objectives as well and try to find that kind of a compromise. On the other hand, we will have to be alert that we cannot give in and there are certain interests, which are actually European interests, and we have to demonstrate this to our European partners.

"For example, the cohesion policy of the European Union is the most important community policy. Without cohesion, the European Union would not be able to maintain its position in global competition. Cohesion would enhance competitiveness. In our case especially - the new member states - cohesion, modernisation actually means that these countries will be able to reach European standards and in that respect that kind of cohesion is a tool for competitiveness."

Mr Barroso pointed out that he was glad to hear the stance of the Visegrad Four first hand and that's why he attended the Visegrad summit. How much of a force can these four countries present together within the European Union...what can they achieve together, that they cannot reach individually?

"Four member states have a bigger weight than just one. That is an obvious fact. These four countries actually present quite an effective bloc. We managed to contribute to budget talks earlier, so we have achieved something by having a joint approach to these problems and not trying to promote our own national interests. This meeting reconfirmed the importance of a joint effort of the four Visegrad countries. We found many common points with the president of the Commission. I think it was a mutually beneficial exchange of views."