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Brussels, 10 November 1998

UE-H 1513/98 (Presse 384)





    1.  The EU-Hungary Association Council held its fifth meeting at Ministerial level on Tuesday 10 November 1998, chaired by Mr. Wolfgang SCHUSSEL, President-in-Office of the Council of the European Union and head of the European Union delegation. The delegation of the Republic of Hungary was headed by Mr. János MARTONYI, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The European Commission was represented by Commissioner Mr. Hans VAN DEN BROEK.

     This meeting of the Association Council was held immediately after the second meeting of the Accession Conference at Ministerial level. Fulfilling its central role in EU-Hungary relations, the Association Council reviewed Hungary's preparation towards accession to the European Union and bilateral relations under the Europe Agreement. It also exchanged views on international issues of common interest.

    2.  The Association Council noted that the EU-Hungary relationship has entered into a new phase against the background of the historic decisions by the European Council of Luxembourg. It recalled that the accession process is supported by the enhanced pre-accession strategy, whose basic framework is set out in the Accession Partnership.

     The Association Council took note of the National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis presented by the Hungarian government on 30 March and its intention to revise it before the end of this year as part of the evolutionary process towards accession.

     It also noted that the first Regular Report on progress towards accession has been submitted by the Commission to the Council on 9 November 1998 and will now be examined by the Council in the framework of the preparation of the European Council in Vienna.

     The Association Council reviewed Hungary's progress in pre-accession strategy. Bearing in mind Hungary's past difficulties in the utilisation of the Phare Programme, it welcomed the strengthening of Hungary's administrative structures necessary for the programming and implementation of pre-accession financial assistance.

     The European Union acknowledged the impressive progress in a number of areas concerning the internal market, like taxation, certification and banking. At the same time it stressed that progress in approximation should be accelerated particularly in the areas of standardisation, environment and transport.

     Concerning Hungary's general economic situation, the Association Council welcomed progress reflected in key economic and social indicators. In this context, it noted the need to further reduce inflation, exercise fiscal prudence and strengthen the functioning of the legal framework of the market economy.

    3.  The Association Council expressed its satisfaction that bilateral relations under the Europe Agreement continue to intensify, that a number of issues under discussion have been solved and that bilateral trade continues to develop positively. In particular, it welcomed the signature of the Additional Protocol on the adaptation of the Europe Agreement following Enlargement and the completion of the Uruguay Round, and the liberalisation of bilateral trade in textiles as of 1 January 1998. It agreed on the importance of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues.

     The Association Council was encouraged by the progress made in the negotiation of the Protocol on European Conformity Assessment. A successful conclusion of these negotiations will result in an increased level of alignment in the standards and certification area and will contribute to the removal of existing barriers to trade.

     The Association Council reiterated the great importance it attaches to transparency in the field of State Aid and welcomed the presentation of the Annual Report on State Aid in Hungary for 1995-1996 as an important step in fulfilling the reporting requirements under the Europe Agreement. The Parties agreed that further efforts will be done in view of the adoption by the Association Council of the Decision relating to the implementing rules in the field of State Aid.

 The Association Council underlined the importance of close co-operation on the restructuring of the steel sector and looked forward to the transmission of the Hungarian restructuring plan. The Hungarian request for an extension of the five-year period during which public aid may be exceptionally granted for restructuring purposes, will be examined by the Union in relation to the Europe Agreement rules on public aid, as soon as it has received the Hungarian restructuring plan.

     The Association Council welcomed the Hungarian proposal on a further round of mutual concessions in agricultural products with a view to furthering liberalisation and improving market access for both parties as soon as possible.

     Finally, the Association Council noted with satisfaction the good functioning of the Association structures, in particular the fruitful work accomplished by the Association Committee and sub-committees and the adoption of Association Council Decisions by written procedure. In this context, it welcomed the Decisions already adopted concerning the participation of Hungary in Community Programmes in the fields of health and equal opportunities, after Hungary's successful participation in Leonardo, Socrates and Youth for Europe since 1997.

     Decisions on programmes in the areas of Small and Medium Enterprises and Culture are about to be adopted. The Association Council recalled that participation in the MEDIA II programme is conditional on a sufficient degree of alignment with the audio-visual 'acquis'; in this context it acknowledged that Hungary has already taken serious steps in this direction and that further measures are envisaged, facilitating Hungary's participation in this Community programme. In view of the opening of the Fifth Framework Programme for Science, Research and Development, it recalled that the conditions for Hungary's participation to this programme will be fixed by an Association Council Decision to be adopted in due time.

     Concerning the provision of Article 6 of the Europe Agreement on entering into the second stage of the transitional period, the Association Council took note that this issue was currently under examination in view of the adoption of the relevant Association Council Decision.

    4.  The Ministers had a fruitful exchange of views on international issues of common interest. They noted with satisfaction that cooperation in the context of the common foreign and security policy between the EU and Hungary has continued to develop.

     The Association Council expressed its strong support for Hungary's constructive and stabilising role in Central Europe, as well as its active participation in regional co-operation initiatives.

    5.  In conclusion, the Association Council reiterated its confidence that continued progress in the implementation of the Europe Agreement and the enhanced pre-accession strategy, as well as the on-going accession negotiations, will bring Hungary closer to membership of the European Union.

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