Hungary followed on from Spain and Belgium to become head of the Council of the European Union on 1 January 2011.
Hungary has taken on the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time since it joined in 2004. Its priorities include stabilising the European economy, EU expansion, energy and the integration of Roma people.
The Hungarian presidency begins at a time when economic recovery is still uneven and yet to be consolidated within the Union. In response to the problems in the euro area, EU countries have agreed to modify the Lisbon Treaty to make permanent the financial stabilisation mechanism set up to help Greece and Ireland. One of the new presidency's objectives is to move forward with negotiations on this.
It also intends to take further steps towards coordinating the economic policies of EU countries. This will include launching the 'European semester', a six-month period during which each country's draft budget will be reviewed by the EU to detect potential imbalances.
In the social sphere, Hungary will work to develop a real EU strategy to promote the integration of Roma people. Their standard of living could be improved by using EU funds more efficiently.
One of the highlights of the Hungarian presidency will be the energy summit. A primary objective will be to ensure that EU countries' electricity and gas networks are interconnected in order to reduce the EU's dependence on non-EU countries, especially for its gas supply.
Hungary also hopes to strengthen EU relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. It will host these countries for the second Eastern Partnership summit in May.
Finally, Hungary will actively support the EU expansion process, particularly as regards Croatia. Croatia has been a candidate since 2004, and is entering the final phase of its accession negotiations.