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NEWS: Media law brings tension into Hungary’s EU presidency

The Guardian UK reports that, “In Hungary…the European Union is facing a member government that, to all intents and purposes, has ‘gone rogue’, ignoring its charter obligations and EU law to push through a populist right-wing agenda. Stern written reprimands from information commissioner Neelie Kroes about Hungary’s new media law are unlikely to be enough. Substantive action may be required.” BBC adds that, “There’s no doubt that (in Hungary) the national public media is being concentrated, slimmed down and is now managed by government appointees. Many broadcast journalists fear that at a time of looming job losses, this is not a good moment to say things that the government might not like.”

BBC also reports, “The continuing row over a controversial new Hungarian media law, which its critics claim represents a full-scale assault on press freedom, inevitably overshadowed the launch of Hungary’s first ever six-month term in the European Union presidency.” EurActiv explains that, “Traditionally, the country that holds the presidency sets the bloc’s agenda, mediates internal European disagreements and serves as the main negotiator with other powers during its term.”

The European Commission reports that, “In the social sphere, (during its presidency) Hungary will work to develop a real EU strategy to promote the integration of Roma people. Their standard of living could be improved by using EU funds more efficiently.” As we’ve noted in a campaign blog, “The Czech parliament is currently blocking the Canada-EU air transportation agreement in retaliation over the imposition of visa requirements for Czech citizens seeking entry into Canada (as a way to stop Roma refugees from entering this country). The Canadian Press has reported that, “Sources have said the Czech Republic (has also) responded by linking the visa issue to free-trade negotiations between Canada and Europe, a move that could slow progress towards a deal.”

There are technically three presidents in the European Union: the President of the European Council (Herman von Rompuy) is the permanent head of the gathering of 27 member leaders that sets the bloc’s policies; the President of the European Commission (Jose Manuel Barroso) is the appointed president of the EU’s top adminstrative body, he appoints the civil service; and the President of the European Parliament, this is the six-month term now held by Hungary which presides over the debates and activities of the EP, whose signature is needed to enact most EU laws and the EU budget.

Poland will take over the EU presidency in July.