Hungary will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time from January 1 through June 30, 2011. This is a historic challenge for our country. We find ourselves in a special situation, as issues and objectives guiding the agenda of the European Union will strongly coincide with our own national efforts.
Creating jobs is among the main strategic objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Consequently, while fulfilling these EU-level objectives, we will also contribute toward accomplishing our own fundamental goals.
One of the most important tasks of our presidency, therefore, will be to enhance economic consolidation of the European Union. The issue at stake is recovery of the EU’s competitiveness and the survival and further development of the European model. To achieve this, fundamental changes are necessary. The implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy will be our priority task, together with strengthening economic policy coordination.
Other essential issues on the agenda of the Hungarian presidency are tasks related to the long-term budgetary planning process. A strategic element of the forthcoming period is consultation on the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Addressing issues related to the energy package, as well as climate policy, will also be priorities.
Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, a key question will be whether the new legal framework will be able to bring Europe closer to its citizens. For us, the most important task will be to promote this process, demonstrating that the EU exists for its citizens, and is able to improve and enrich their lives. This is why we attach specific importance to issues related to fundamental rights and give priority to preserving cultural diversity.
Social Policy, Aging and Family Policy
In the course of the Hungarian EU presidency, the Ministry of National Resources will pay special attention to social and aging-related programs, as well as to family policy. The Europe 2020 Strategy constitutes a unique framework for providing genuine responses to a number of problems faced by European societies. Priority will be given to the initiative European Platform against Poverty, with special attention to fighting child poverty. We intend to focus our attention on activities related to early childhood education, societal participation of children, and prevention of further deepening of poverty. Within the European Union, 2010 is the European Year of Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
The European Platform against Poverty will direct our attention to improving the situation of the Roma. Hungary is pressing for more active EU involvement in this respect, and we are committed to actively participating in developing the European Framework Strategy on Roma Inclusion. We will also support Roma benefiting from EU grants proportionate to the seriousness of their socioeconomic situation.
An important task will be to initiate a complex discussion on family policy issues and demographic trends. The Hungarian EU presidency will hold a thematic week, titled Population Issues and Population Policies: Increasing Awareness, that will include an expert-level conference, a ministerial meeting, and a number of civil society events. Our aim is to direct attention toward changing demographic trends.
Secure Pension System, Active Aging
We will continue to promote common deliberations on sustainable and secure European pension systems. We would also like to ensure that Europe’s aging society can look forward to favorable prospects for life after work. We need to be able to rely on the help, knowledge, and decades-long experience of our older citizens, and thus we should take particular care of the elderly and support cooperation among generations. The Hungarian government pays special attention to protecting pensions and preserving the purchasing value of these benefits. We all benefit when seniors are able to live active lives within their families for as long as possible.
The Ministry of National Resources deems it important that changes in attitude enhancing the self-esteem of older persons and promoting opportunities for an active lifestyle come about both in politics and in society. To this end we intend to strengthen the social services system and support activities by religious and civic organizations. To create a prosperous economy, as well as to ensure the long-term sustainability of the pension system, the ministry plans to implement measures encouraging an increase in the birthrate and strengthening the family support system.
World-class Medicine and Medical Tourism
One of the main pillars of active aging is the preservation of good health. A special characteristic of Hungary is its supply of high-quality mineral and thermal waters. Globally we are among the leading countries with regard to health tourism facilities (thermal water, medicinal climate, mofette, and medicinal mud). Hungary has the fifth-largest thermal water reserves in the world, after Japan, Iceland, Italy and France. Of the country’s 1,372 thermal water sources, 197 are recognized as providing medicinal water; 385 settlements have thermal or medicinal bath complexes, of which 65 are classified as medicinal spas. Our water is unique in its temperature, quality, and curative powers. In Hungary there is a long tradition of balneology based on thermal and medicinal water treatment in the areas of locomotor disorders, traumatology, postsurgical rehabilitation, gynecology, and dermatology.
Our health resorts have gained worldwide recognition for their long experience in successful curative activities, and also for the fact that several healing factors are concentrated in individual locations. The most famous health resorts are in Balatonfüred, Bük, Debrecen, Eger, Gyöngyös, Gyula, Hajdúszoboszló, Harkány, Hévíz, Miskolc, Parád, Sopron, and Zalakaros. Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is also a spa city with great traditions, where the experience of bathing and recovery can be enjoyed in a historic environment. The Széchenyi Baths, set in a magnificent park in the heart of the city, or the Gellért Baths on the bank of the River Danube in the city center, offer an inimitable atmosphere.
The Office of the Junior Minister for Health in the Ministry of National Resources attaches great importance to innovation; it intends to further develop sophisticated, medically based wellness treatments, developing complex treatment packages tailored to each patient’s needs, comprising interventions from healthy nutrition to improving physical condition.
Miklós Réthelyi, a professor at the Semmelweis Medical University, was appointed minister of national resources in May 2010. He is responsible for the culture, education, health, social protection, and sport portfolios.