Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Hungary enters the fray

Of the 25 member states involved in the constitutional IGC, one of countries of which we appear to have heard least is Hungary. But no more.

Hungarian premier Peter Medgyessy has told Bertie Ahern that he is "adamant" that the enlarged EU must have one commissioner per country. That drives a cart and horse through the Irish presidency’s "non-proposals" on reducing the number of commissioners, and adds to the list of countries with their own "red lines" which are preventing Ahern making a deal.

Ahern, in Hungary on yet another tour of EU capitals in search of a resolution of the constitution impasse, had said earlier in the day in Vienna that a larger Union could not indefinitely keep the unwieldy system of one commissioner per country.

Nevertheless, his plea was rejected by Medgyessy, who has also turned down the Irish compromise formula on voting rights, based on 55 percent of member states and 65 percent of the population needed to carry a decision by QMV. "We can only accept a parity system, namely that the number of countries and the size of the population have the same weight in the decision," Medgyessy said. "This is the only way to ensure that Europe does not become a Europe of the big countries."

There is an old joke about how you define a Hungarian. He is the man that enters a revolving door after you, and comes out in front. With Hungary pitching into the debate, Ahern must now feel that he is the man who went into the revolving door first. His chances of reaching a deal – already slim – are receding fast.

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