The European Institute held a breakfast meeting on Friday, February 11th, with The Honorable Bálint Ódor, Hungary’s Deputy State Secretary for European Union Affairs, to discuss the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency of the European Council.  The European Union’s efforts to reach agreement on permanent security mechanisms to protect the euro and to begin implementation of important economic governance reforms were a central priority, Mr. Ódor said. He also emphasized the importance of pushing the goals of the ambitious Europe 2020 strategy, with a focus on creating jobs and strengthening European competitiveness. Serious work towards a common European energy policy was underway, and the Hungarian Presidency was also looking to further agreement on the future of common agricultural and cohesion policies.  Mr. Ódor also outlined Hungary’s push for the establishment of a Europe-wide strategy to guarantee a better life for the Roma, as well as the need to sustain the enlargement process, particularly with regards to Croatia and Turkey.

On all fronts, Mr. Ódor stressed that Hungary’s role during the six months rotation of the European Council presidency is to act as a “broker” to insure that compromises are achieved. He readily acknowledged the importance of bringing the European Union closer to its citizens, and previewed the burgeoning debate on the European Union’s multiannual financial framework (2013-2019) by advocating a bottoms-up approach. “We should see what the EU member states and citizens need from the EU,” he said.

Chinese officials have reportedly assured EU leaders that Beijing will be continuing (and perhaps step up) its rate of buying the government bonds of fiscally beleaguered member states of the euro.  Chinese support will be a powerful asset for these countries and the EU as a whole as they try to cope with markets’ attack on peripheral member states with large sovereign debt exposure. The previously undisclosed pledge was reported in the Financial Times.

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On December 10, 2010, Arkady Dvorkovich, Chief Economic Advisor to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, delivered keynote remarks via teleconference to a special meeting of The European Institute’s Roundtable of EU-U.S.-Russia Triangular Relations.  Focused on the common challenge of maintaining the innovation paradigm in a difficult economic climate, the meeting included opening remarks by His Excellency Jan Matthysen, Ambassador of Belgium to the United States and a panel discussion with Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Co-Chair of the Russia Caucus; Ambassador Vincent Mertens de Wilmars, Diplomatic Advisor to the Belgian Minister of Defense and Former Ambassador of Belgium to the Russian Federation; and Antonio de Lecea, Minister- Principle Advisor for the Delegation of the European Union. The discussion was moderated by The Honorable Clay Lowery, Vice President of International Government Affairs at Cisco Systems, Inc.

His Excellency João Vale de Almeida, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, was the guest of honor at The European Institute’s Annual Ambassadors’ Gala Dinner on December 9, 2010. Emphasizing the unparalleled maturity and shared purpose of the European American relationship, Ambassador Vale de Almeida stressed the need for constant commitment to a partnership whose common mission is all the more vital in the face of globalization’s challenges. Europe and the United States can maximize their influence on the emergent multi-polar global stage by setting aside differences, concentrating on commonalities, and adopting a positive agenda. The Ambassador applauded what he termed a “new attitude” in the transatlantic relationship and said he was motivated by the development of both new and renewed tools of cooperation on such vital fronts as the economy, trade, energy and cyber security. In 2011, the shared priority for both the European Union and the United States will be to achieve the needed growth for economic recovery and job creation, while also restoring public confidence in governance.

On December 7, 2010, The Honorable Maroš Šefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration offered his assessment of the transformative changes in the European Union’s governance since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force and outlined the key challenges that lie ahead in the EU’s quest for an "ever-closer union."