Accession in progress
Hungary concluded an Association Agreement with the European Communities in December 1991, which has been in force since 1 February 1994. The Agreement covers trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation and other areas of co-operation, including industry, environment, transport and customs and aims at progressively establishing a free-trade area between the EU and Hungary. In March 1994, Hungary was the first country of the region to formally apply for EU membership. At the Luxembourg European Council in December 1997 it was finally decided to launch the accession negotiations with six of the applicant countries, among them Hungary.
The negotiations with Hungary were launched on 30 March 1998. Since then, Hungary has participated in eight meetings of the Accession Conference at ministerial level. A so-called Regular Report on the progress of each of the candidate countries on the way towards accession is published every autumn. In these reports, the Commission services identify the remaining shortcomings and tasks to be carried out prior to accession to meet the political, economic and legal “Copenhagen criteria” for accession, with particular emphasis on enforcement and institutional capacity. On the basis of the Regular Reports, Accession Partnerships are drawn up, which outline the most important short- and medium term priorities that have to be tackled by the respective candidate country in the near future.
In December 2000, the European Council in Nice endorsed a “roadmap” for the completion of the negotiations, including a calendar for dealing with all topics (so-called “chapters”) over three Presidencies from the beginning of 2001 to mid-2002.
This would enable the fulfilment of the European Council’s determination (stated at Laeken in December 2001) to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries that are ready to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as members following ratification of the accession treaty by the European Parliament and the Parliaments of the 15 Member States and of the candidate country. The European Council agreed with the report of the Commission, which considers that, if the present rate of progress of the negotiations and reforms in the candidate States is maintained, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could be ready.
The negotiating process is accompanied by regular meetings of a number of bodies under the Europe Agreement, such as the Association Council and the Association Committee , the EP-Hungary Joint Parliamentary Committee. These forums provide the occasion to review progress in Hungary’s preparations for accession, notably in the light of the Accession Partnership priorities, and in bilateral relations under the Europe Agreement. In addition, a system of sub-committees has been established as a forum for technical discussions.
From 2000 onwards, the EU foresees a combined total of around € 220 million of Pre-accession assistance to Hungary on an annual basis from the three EU instruments.
The PHARE programme that has been providing support to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since 1989 allocated to Hungary € 1 030 million during the period 1992 to 1999, € 119.8 million in 2000 and € 108,8 million in 2001. In 2002 Hungary will be entitled to € 120.7 million. This figure includes the additional Institution Building allocation (€ 24,7 million) in support of the Action Plan for Administrative and Judicial Capacity. 1999 Funds were fully contracted by the end of September 2001. 2002 programming is advancing well and approximately € 38 million of Institution Building projects are ready for approval in February 2002.
Hungary received € 88 million from ISPA (Instrument for structural policies for pre-accession) in 2000 and € 90.8 million in 2001. The support was roughly divided in equal terms for environment and transport projects. During the first two years of its operation 100% of the ISPA allocation has been committed.
The Hungarian SAPARD programme (Special Accession Programme for Agricultural and Rural Development) was adopted by the Commission in October 2000. It foresees the improvement of the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and processing industry focusing on environmental protection and seeks to enhance the adaptation capabilities of rural areas. The average annual public expenditure will amount to € 50.5 during the period 2000-2006, of which € 38.7 million will be the EU-contribution.