Letter from the Director
I’m Clare, your chair for the Hungarian Cabinet and Cultural and Social Affairs Council at YMGE 2018. I’m a sophomore Political Science major from Hopkinton, Massachusetts and thrilled to be in the beautiful city of Budapest and to spend this conference with you all. In addition to YMGE, I also work on Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY,) Yale’s college-level crisis conference, and will chair for YMUN, Yale’s on-campus Model United Nations conference in January. Outside of YIRA and classes, I work with Yale Refugee Project advising local refugees through their employment application process. In addition, I tutor for RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Student Education,) working with a group of New Haven middle school students who have recently immigrated from Spanish-speaking countries. I also report for The Globalist, an undergraduate foreign affairs magazine, am part of the Yale College Democrats, and perform contemporary and jazz dances with Danceworks. I’m so excited to chair the Hungarian Cabinet and discuss an issue of immense importance to me and to the global community. We are living amidst one of the greatest migration crises in history, and the political decisions made by European leaders in this critical moment will powerfully influence the lives of refugees and displaced people as well as the political, cultural, racial, and economic future of the area. I can’t wait to meet you all and engage in dialogue around some critical problems and debates currently happening around the country, continent, and world. Hopefully, we can all work together to create an educational, memorable, and engaging YMGE experience :).
Hungary traces its history back to the Magyars, an alliance of semi-nomadic tribes from southern Russia and the Black Sea coast that arrived in the region in the ninth century. After centuries as a powerful medieval kingdom, Hungary was part of the Ottoman and then Habsburg empires from the sixteenth century onwards. From 1867 to the end of the First World War in 1918, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following a revolution, Hungary emerged as an independent country. In 1919, Communism took power in Hungary under Bela Kun, who waged war on Czechoslovakia and Romania. Romanian forces occupied Budapest and handed power to Admiral Miklos Horthy. Through the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, Entente powers awarded more than two-thirds of Hungarian territory to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia, leaving a third of Hungarian speakers living outside the country. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Admiral Horthy's rule, characterised by bitter resentment at loss of Hungarian territories, became progressively more reactionary and more closely allied with Nazi Germany. Hungary eventually fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Second World War and lost a large part of its army in Russia. Germany occupied Hungary in 1944 after Hungary sought an armistice. Throughout the country, hundreds of thousands of Jewish people and gypsies were deported to death camps. After the end of the Second World War, Communists consolidated power under Soviet occupation. They created a new constitution, nationalized industry, collectivised agriculture, and instilled violence and terror. In 1956, an uprising against Soviet domination was suppressed by the Soviet Army. During the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990–1991, the opening of the German border with Austria allowed thousands of East Germans escape to the West, many arriving in Hungary. In these years, Democratic elections are held in Hungary and Soviet forces withdraw from the country. In 1999, Hungary joins NATO. In 2004, Hungary is one of 10 new states to join the European Union. After decades under Communist rule, Hungary's status as a liberal democracy and member of the European Union has been questioned by the increasingly authoritarian actions of populist right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The modern political system in Hungary contained elements of autocracy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, but in the period between 1867 and 1948, it had a functioning parliament with a multiparty system and a relatively independent judiciary. After the communist takeover in 1948, a Soviet-style political system was introduced, with a leading role for the Communist Party, which took priority over the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government. In that year, all rival political parties were abolished, and the Hungarian Social Democratic Party was forced to merge with the Communist Party, forming the Hungarian Workers’ Party. After the Revolution of 1956, it was reorganized as the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, which survived until the fall of communism in 1989. In 1989, dramatic political reforms accompany the economic transformation taking place. After giving up its institutionalized leading role, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party abolishes itself, with the exception of a small splinter group that continues under its old name, and reshaped itself into the Hungarian Socialist Party. In October 1989, a radical revision of the 1949 constitution, which includes around 100 changes, introduces a multiparty parliamentary system of representative democracy with free elections. The legislative and executive branches of the government are separated, and an independent judicial system is created. The revision establishes a Constitutional Court, elected by Parliament, which reviews the constitutionality of legislation and may annul laws. It also provides for an ombudsman for the protection of constitutional civil rights and ombudsman's groups for the protection of national and ethnic minority rights. The 1989 constitution is amended repeatedly, and a controversial new constitution, pushed through by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, was ratified in January 2012. Among other significant recent revisions of Hungarian law was a change in 2010 that allowed non-residents to obtain citizenship if they could prove their Hungarian ancestry and mastery of the Hungarian language. Supreme legislative power is granted to the unicameral National Assembly, which elects the president of the republic, the Council of Ministers, the president of the Supreme Court, and the chief prosecutor. The president, who may serve two five-year terms, is commander in chief of the armed forces but otherwise has limited authority. The right of the people to propose referenda is guaranteed. The Council of Ministers, which is headed by the prime minister, is Hungary’s main body of executive power and the primary director of state administration. It implements decisions made by Parliament, the legislative body, and pursues goals laid out by the government’s programme. As the general body of executive power, the government’s responsibilities include “all matters not expressly delegated by the Fundamental Law or other legislation to the responsibilities and competences of another body.” In Hungary’s parliamentary system, Parliament has the right to monitor the work of the executive government, and if it concludes that the government is not completing its responsibilities satisfactorily, it can withdraw its support through a so-called "constructive vote of no confidence".
Members of Parliament elect a Prime Minister after a proposal from the President and vote on the Government’s programme. The election of the Prime Minister is subject to a majority vote of the Members of Parliament. The Prime Minister’s role is to determine the general direction of government policy, within the context of the Government’s programme. The President of the Republic appoints ministers according to the Prime Minister’s recommendations. In addition to this, the Prime Minister chairs cabinet meetings and ensures the implementation of government decisions.
The cabinet, led by current Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is composed of thirteen ministers. These are the Head of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Prime Minister’s Office, Minister of Human Capacities, Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Innovation and Technology, Minister of Interior, Minister for Hungarian Communities Abroad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance, and two Ministers without Portfolios. The Prime Minister chooses to designate one or two Ministers to serve as Deputy Prime Ministers.
The majority of a Minister’s work involves guidance and supervision of a given ministry. A Minister develops legislative proposals to allow effective operation within the Minister's specialist area of responsibility as well as to implement the government programme. Ministers also represent the Hungarian Government at the European Council and other international organizations. According to the new structure of public administration created in 2011, a Minister of State has full power to deputize for the Minister who directs the work of Minister of State. With a radical reduction in the numbers of ministries, a single Minister of State directs several specialist departments. For example, a single Minister is responsible for education, sport and healthcare. This means Ministers of State play important roles in the direction of their respective specialist areas. Ministers of State may be divided into three categories. Ministers of State responsible for specialist areas and Parliamentary Ministers of State are political leaders. A Minister of State for public administration is a specialist leader of a ministry’s administrative operations, while the responsibilities of a Parliamentary Minister of State relate to communication with Parliament. Hungary is divided administratively into 19 megyék (counties) and into cities, towns, and villages. Budapest has a special status as the capital city (főváros), headed by a lord mayor (főpolgármester) and divided into 22 districts, each headed by its own mayor (polgármester). Local representative governments are responsible for protection of the environment, local public transport and utilities, public security, and various economic, social, and cultural activities. Public administration offices, whose heads are appointed by the Minister of the Interior, supervise the legality of the operations of local governments. Justice is administered by the Supreme Court, which provides conceptual guidance for the judicial activity of the Court of the Capital City and the county courts and for the local courts. A chief prosecutor is responsible for protecting the rights of citizens and prosecuting acts violating constitutional order and endangering security. The constitutionality of the laws is overseen by the new Constitutional Court, which began operation in 1990. A constitutional amendment in 1997 called for the addition of regional appellate courts, which came into force in the early 21st century. Parliamentary elections based on universal suffrage for citizens age 18 and over are held every four years. Under the mixed system of direct and proportional representation, candidates may be elected as part of national and regional party lists or in an individual constituency. In the latter case, candidates must gain an absolute majority in the first round of the elections or runoff elections must be held. Candidates on territorial lists cannot be elected if their party fails to receive at least five percent of the national aggregate of votes for the territorial lists. About 200 political parties were established following the revision of the constitution in 1989, but only six of them became long-term participants in the country’s new political life after the first free elections (1990): the Hungarian Democratic Forum, Alliance of Free Democrats, Independent Smallholders’ Party, Christian Democratic People’s Party, Federation of Young Democrats (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége; Fidesz), and Hungarian Socialist Party—the latter being the party of reformed ex-communists. The same six parties were returned to Parliament in 1994, and for the following decade most of them remained represented in the legislature. Avid communists reemerged in 1992 as the Workers’ Party, while the right-wing Hungarian Justice and Life Party was created in 1993, when it split from the Hungarian Democratic Forum. Fidesz added Hungarian Civic Party (later changed to Hungarian Civic Alliance) to its name, and between 1998 and 2002 it became the dominant party and formed the government. The Christian Democrats organized the Centre Party alliance in 2002 but failed to make it into the Parliament.
The Hungarian armed forces consist of ground forces, air and air-defense forces, a small navy that patrols the Danube, the border guard, and police. Military service was compulsory for males over the age of 18 until 2004, when Hungary established a voluntary force. The term of duty varies according to the branch of service but is typically less than one year. The armed forces are not permitted to cross the state frontiers without the prior consent of Parliament. In the decade between 1989 and 1999, the armed forces declined from 155,000 members to just under 60,000, but at the same time, they also underwent a process of modernization to prepare Hungary to join the Western military alliance NATO. Membership was finally achieved in March 1999, eight years after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, of which Hungary was a member.
In Hungary’s April elections, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party won 70% of the vote and Orbán secured a third term based on a campaign centered around anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments. Hungary’s opposition to migrants seems counterintuitive for a country with one of the lowest percentages of foreign-born population in the developed world and a fertility rate below the already-low European average. The Hungarian government is being challenged at the European Court of Human Rights and faces criticism from international and regional human rights bodies, including the United Nations Refugee Agency, for violating the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. Hungary is known as one of the worst European countries for migrants and asylum seekers. Some of the actions they have been criticized for include automatic detention of almost all asylum seekers in substandard border “transit zones”; sometimes violent removal of all people found inside the country after irregular entry through the external side of border fences; arbitrarily applied restrictions on access to the asylum procedure; and criminalization of irregular entry. Our Hungarian cabinet will examine the existing legislative framework around migrants and refugees, especially the March 2017 asylum law which requires all asylum applications to be submitted in the transit zones and all asylum seekers, excluding unaccompanied children below the age of 14, to stay at the transit zones for the whole duration of their asylum procedure. Concerns have been raised about the legality of these “transit zones” and the humanity of their conditions, as well as the general anti-immigrant sentiments put forth by the government that have inflamed racial tensions in the country.
In 2018, three years after Europe’s biggest influx of migrants and refugees since the Second World War, tensions between EU member states over how to handle irregular immigration from outside the region, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, are rising again. Numbers are sharply down from their 2015–2016 peak because of an EU deal with Turkey, new border fences in the Balkans, and a bilateral arrangement between Italy and Libya. The UNHCR says Spain has welcomed 9,500 irregular migrants so far this year, Greece 12,000, and Italy 15,300. But the underlying factors that have led to more than 1.8 million migrants coming to Europe since 2014 have not gone away. As conflicts in the refugees’ home countries continue to rage, it is likely only a matter of time before the number of migrants picks up again.
More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. The vast majority arrived by sea but some migrants have journeyed over land, mainly through Turkey and Albania. Just over 172,300 people reached Europe by sea in 2017, less than half the nearly 400,000 in 2016. There was a also significant increase in boat migration from Morocco to Spain, though overall numbers remained low. The Mediterranean crossing remained deadly, with 3,139 dead or missing in 2017. Nongovernmental organizations performed roughly 40 percent of rescues in the central Mediterranean in the first half of 2017, but several groups suspended activities due to security concerns and increased interceptions, sometimes reckless and accompanied by abuse, by Libyan coast guard forces. The Syrian Civil War continues to be the biggest driver of migration by far. However, ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo, are also pushing people to search for new lives and opportunities elsewhere.
The EU established the Schengen Agreement in 1985, which abolished the internal border checks of signatory countries, providing free and unrestricted movement between countries in the Schengen Area for more than 400 million nationals of the 26 signatory countries, and of goods, services, and capital, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders. By removing internal border controls, countries party to the Schengen Agreement effectively abandoned a core element of state sovereignty in favor of freedom of movement. But they embarked on this federal project without building the necessary legal and institutional foundation and without setting up crucial common arrangements to secure their external borders and manage migration and asylum. While the acute crisis of 2016 has ended, the situation has hardly normalized. The 2018 Italian elections demonstrate that concerns surrounding migration and asylum continue to dominate the public space and shape national and EU politics. The European Union (EU) established the Schengen Agreement in 1985, which abolished the internal border checks of signatory countries. This provides free and unrestricted movement between countries in the Schengen Area for the more than 400 million nationals of the 26 signatory countries, and of goods, services, and capital, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders. Border controls at several internal Schengen borders are still in place, and migration remains the top concern of EU citizens. EU member states issued 12.5 million first-time residence permits to non-EU citizens from 2012 to 2016.
Current refugees are also arriving at a moment when Europe was just emerging from the worst economic crisis of the postwar period. The fact that the new arrivals would, at least initially, place a burden on social services and budgets aggravated the public’s frustration. In particular, Europe’s poorest populations soon felt that the refugees were enjoying privileged access to benefits and financial support, while they themselves were losing out.
Public concern further deepened when the mass inflows began to be associated with Islamic terrorism and increased criminality. With devastating attacks in Paris, Nice, Brussels, and more, fear of weakened security struck European citizens. Even though most terrorist acts were committed by European citizens and overall crime rates remained low, media attention on incidents involving asylum seekers has increased Europeans’ sense of insecurity and calls for stricter immigration policy.
Hungary lies at the external border of the EU Schengen area and directly neighbors a third state, Serbia, which was and may again become the main transit country within the Western Balkan route. In February of 2018, Hungary considered a bill that would include entry bans on foreigners and restraining orders to stop Hungarians from going to border areas if they are deemed to be “supporting” or “organizing” illegal immigration.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto complained bitterly the European quota decision as the "rape of European law and values." The migration question is very emotional in Hungary, and has been animated by the ruling Fidesz party to attract voters. The opposition Socialist Party accused Prime Minister Orbán, of having "gambled and lost" by suing the European Commission. In addition to rejecting the EU agreement, Hungary drastically reduced their number of allowed refugees, to as low as two per day in early 2018. Refugees are often met with harsh treatment by local authorities, including incidents of brutal violence that have drawn condemnation from the international community. Orbán in particular has been criticized for his Islamophobic and anti-refugee rhetoric. In May of this year, Hungary considered a draft law which the UNHCR said “would significantly restrict the ability of NGOs and individuals to support asylum-seekers and refugees.” Through public statements, force, and proposed legislation, Hungary has made it clear it is a hostile environment for refugees and does not wish to align with the priorities of the EU and international human rights norms.
In December 2017, the European Commission announced that they plan to sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for refusing to take in asylum seekers. The commission, the EU's executive body, accused the three countries of "non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation." The ECJ, based in Luxembourg, could impose heavy fines on the three countries. In 2015, EU states agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers between them based on the size and wealth of each country, however, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against accepting mandatory quotas. The relocation plan was launched by the EU in response to the large influx of migrants and refugees. It was an attempt to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy, where the vast majority of migrants were arriving. However, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 of the 2,000 asylum-seekers it had been designated, while Hungary and Poland have received none. The commission launched infringement procedures against the three states in June and warned them last month that further action was likely. "The replies received were again found not satisfactory and three countries have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the relocation decision," a statement said. "This is why, the commission has decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure and refer the three member states to the court of justice of the EU."
In March 2017, the UNHCR released a statement saying they are “deeply concerned at a new law which has been voted this morning at the Hungarian Parliament and which foresees the mandatory detention of all asylum seekers, including many children, for the entire length of the asylum procedure.” In practice, the law means that every asylum-seeker, including children, will be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time. According to the UNHCR, the law violates Hungary’s obligations under international and EU laws, and will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered. “Children should never be detained under any conditions as detention is never in a child’s best interest,” reads the condemning statement. The agency already expressed serious concern about the physical barriers Hungary had erected, together with legislative and policy obstacles, making it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers to enter the country, apply for asylum and receive international protection. Under International and EU laws, the detention of refugees and asylum-seekers can only be justified on a limited number of grounds, and only where it is necessary, reasonable and proportionate. This requires authorities to consider whether there are less coercive or intrusive measures to achieve these goals, based on an assessment of the individual’s particular circumstances. The agency urges that “alternatives to detention should always to be considered first” and that failure to do so could render detention arbitrary.
- Hungary’s national-conservative and right-wing populist political party. It has dominated Hungarian politics on the national and local level since its landslide victory in the 2010 national elections on a joint list with the Christian Democratic People's Party, securing it a parliamentary supermajority that it retained in 2014 and again in 2018. Fidesz also enjoys majorities in the county legislatures (19 of 19,) almost all (20 of 23) urban counties and in the Budapest city council. Viktor Orbán has been the leader of the party for most of its history.
- Jobbik is largest opposition party to Fidesz, though it shares many of Fidesz’ far-right opinions. Sometimes called “Movement for a Better Hungary,” Jobbik got its start as a radical nationalist student movement in the early 2000s and won its first seats in parliament in 2010. The party made a name for itself with its extreme rhetoric, most frequently directed at Jews and members of Hungary’s Roma minority. Over the last four years, Jobbik has attempted a shift to the center, toning down its rhetoric and bolstering its policy program to focus on economic inequality and stopping the flow of workers leaving Hungary for other European countries. However, arguments remain about how much of their platform and values have changed. Together Jobbik and Fidesz comprise the first European political party to champion a border wall. Its members frequently express open anti-Semitic and anti-Roma sentiments, and prioritize the preservation of “Hungary for the Hungarians.”
The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSzP)
- MSzP is left-wing Hungarian political party. Although the modern version was founded in 1989, its history dates back to 1948, when the Hungarian Social Democratic Party merged into what was first called the Hungarian Workers’ Party and then, following the attempted revolution against the communist government in 1956, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party. The party renounced Marxism in 1989. The MSzP contested the general election of 1990, the first free multiparty elections in Hungary in more than 40 years, but it fared poorly, winning 33 seats in the National Assembly. In 1994, however, the MSzP won a majority in the National Assembly and formed Hungary’s government. The MSzP continued the previous government’s austerity measures, which were intended to deal with the economic problems that had developed under communist rule and to introduce elements of a market economy in Hungary. However, these policies were unpopular with the public and alienated more-radical members of the MSzP, deepening factional disputes within the party. As a result, the party lost the 1998 election to Fidesz and its allies. In 2002, the MSzP and its ally, the Alliance of Free Democrats, won a narrow majority in the legislature and formed a coalition government which was reelected in 2006. Later that year, a political scandal erupted as a result of a “secret speech” by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány to MSzP in which he admitted to the party’s failure to address the country’s economic problems and to its mendacity in process. After the Hungarian economy was perched on the brink of disaster in 2008, Gyurcsány resigned in 2009, and the MSzP was swept out of power by Fidesz in the 2010 elections.
NGOs and Human Rights Groups
- Hungary’s current administration has a tense relationship with NGOs and human rights groups. The European Commission announced in 2017 that is is also suing Hungary at the ECJ over its laws on higher education and NGOs. Hungary's right-wing government aims to pass a higher education law that could close the Central European University, founded by financier and philanthropist George Soros, who has a strained relationship with Prime Minister Orbán. The commission states that Hungary's education law "disproportionally restricts EU and non-EU universities in their operations and needs to be brought back in line with EU law.” Hungary also caused controversy in June when it passed legislation forcing non-governmental organisations to declare themselves "foreign-funded.” The commission said the laws "indirectly discriminate and disproportionately restrict donations from abroad to civil society organisations." NGOs and human rights groups remain concerned about Hungary’s increasingly strict and inhumane policies and will continue to advocate for change and compliance with EU agreements.
Questions to Consider
- Under pressure from the EU, countries around the world, and human rights organizations, should Hungary loosen refugee laws and take in more refugees?
- What would be the economic and social impacts of accepting more refugees into the country?
- Is the March 2017 asylum law legal? Is it effective? Is it humane? What could replace it?
Suggestions for Further Research
“Hungary's Orban tells Germany: 'You wanted the migrants, we didn't'” http://www.dw.com/en/hungarys-orban-tells-germany-you-wanted-the-migrants-we-didnt/a-42065012
“Hungary PM: EU should not spend single cent on refugees” https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/hungary-pm-eu-should-not-spend-single-cent-on-refugees/1135545
“How far will Hungary's Orban go for anti-refugee policies?” https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/hungarys-orban-anti-refugee-policies-180409151845968.html
“Orban on Defensive as Hungarian Asylum Data Prompts Backlash” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-15/orban-on-defensive-as-hungarian-asylum-data-prompts-backlash
“Hungary considers passing law that would make offering food to refugees a criminal offence” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hungary-refugees-food-criminal-offence-immigration-laws-viktor-orban-george-soros-a8375471.html
The Council for Cultural and Social Affairs was established in 1950 under the European Union. It deals mainly with crises, devising solutions for their short- and long-term causes and consequences. The council’s policy goals include frameworks for member cooperation and long term plans for growth in cultural and social sectors. The council’s areas of interest include but are not limited to education, minority rights, cultural preservation, youth and gender empowerment, and equality of opportunity. The council pays close attention to the quality of life for citizens in member countries, as well as the unique needs of those outside of citizenship such as migrants, refugees, and internally-displaced people. The council’s platform for growth is centered on inclusive policymaking and enforcement and assuring safety of expression and life. By working towards securing human rights in all environments, the CSA reinforces the idea of social and economic equity in an increasingly diverse world. The council aims for poverty reduction, efficient and humane crisis management, and ultimately increased economic and social equity and mobility. While considering the material and economic factors of growth, the council’s scope goes beyond the basic material needs of all humans to lay the foundation for global social cooperation and prioritized protection of human dignity.
In specific, the Cultural Affairs Committee prepares the work of EU ministers for culture in a wide range of areas relating to EU cultural cooperation and cultural cooperation between the EU and non-EU countries. It also discusses legislative proposals such as the European capitals of culture, the European heritage label, the Creative Europe program, and the Europe for Citizens program. The main framework for EU cooperation in the culture field is set in the multi-annual work plan for culture prepared by the Cultural Affairs Committee and adopted by EU culture ministers. The work plan for culture 2015-2018 focuses in particular on accessible and inclusive culture, cultural heritage, creative economy and innovation, promotion of cultural diversity, and culture in EU external relations and mobility.
The EU's role in the culture area is specified in the Article 167 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU. The department's activities in this area are framed by the European Agenda for Culture, which aims to reinforce the role and position of culture in an increasingly globalised world. The department develops evidence-based policy and manages initiatives in support of Europe's cultural heritage. As the executive arm of the EU, the European Commission is accountable to the European Parliament - more specifically, in this area, to its Education and Culture Committee. The department's main responsibilities in the field of culture are to ensure policy development and dialogue in the field of culture as well as support cultural and creative industries and professionals. In the past few years, the European Commission has focused on implementing the European Agenda for Culture, which is regularly reviewed to provide a measure of progress. Until the Creative Europe programme was launched, the department operated predominantly through the Culture programme (2007-2013), which supported Europe's cultural diversity and heritage, and the MEDIA (2007-2013) and MEDIA Mundus (2011-2013) programmes, which support the audiovisual industry.
The council has also commissioned a variety of studies, reports, and statistical surveys to contribute to international dialogue and cooperation in the field of culture. Individual EU Member States are responsible for their own culture sector policies, but the role of the European Commission is to help address common challenges, such as the impact of the digital shift, changing models of cultural governance, and the need to support the innovation potential of the cultural and creative sectors. The Commission also aims to promote cultural diversity, protect cultural heritage, and ease obstacles to mobility for cultural professionals. They support the contribution of cultural and creative industries to boosting growth and jobs across the EU, in line with the principles of the current agenda The Commission has now proposed a New European Agenda for Culture. The New Agenda acknowledges the evolution of the cultural sector and focuses on the positive contribution that culture makes to Europe’s societies, economies and international relations. It also lays out enhanced working methods with the Member States, civil society and international partners. The New Agenda provides the framework for the next phase of cooperation at EU level, which will start in 2019. Member States define the main topics and working methods for policy collaboration on culture, through Work Plans for Culture adopted in the Council of Ministers. A new Work Plan for Culture is due to be adopted by EU Culture Ministers to start in 2019. The culture sector is, increasingly, a source of job creation, contributing to growth in Europe. It is also an excellent area for promoting social inclusion and supporting cultural diversity. The Agenda contributes to both the 10 priorities of the European Commission for 2014-2019 and satisfying Europe's commitments to international agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Program funding is complemented by peer learning activities between EU Member State governments (through the Open Method of Coordination) and between cities and regions, as well as regular reports and studies, and data-gathering designed to provide up-to-date, relevant information on the culture sector and the economy of culture. Further policy measures and priorities are identified through international cultural cooperation, specifically in the form of discussions with Member States and regular progress reviews on the implementation of the Agenda for Culture. On June 8, 2016, the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopted a Joint Communication Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations. Additional working methods include expert groups, thematic seminars convened by the Commission, studies, informal meetings of officials from Ministries of Culture and Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and conferences such as the biennial European Culture Forum. In this council session, ministers will examine the ways in which ongoing crises threaten social dynamics and the cooperation, preservation, and sustainability of the diverse history and culture of the EU countries.