Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (L) and his North Macedonian counterpart Bujar Osmani (R)
During next year’s Hungarian EU Presidency, the government will do its utmost to speed up the accession of the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia, which would be crucial to reinvigorate the bloc’s declining competitiveness, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in Skopje.
At a press conference held jointly with his North Macedonian counterpart Bujar Osmani, the Hungarian Foreign Minister noted that the European Union is facing serious challenges today, and poor responses are being given to those issues, while the continent’s competitiveness has also fallen dramatically due to the war in Ukraine.
“We should see that the European Union needs the impetus, the fresh energy, the will to do something, the rapid progress that comes from the Western Balkans,” Péter Szijjártó stressed. He said that EU enlargement must therefore be accelerated without delay, including the need to start real negotiations with North Macedonia as soon as possible. He complained that there were still member states that were “slowing down, stalling, and obstructing” the process. “North Macedonia has been a candidate country for eighteen years. Eighteen years of candidacy without the actual start of accession negotiations is simply disrespectful to a nation,” he underlined.
When we take over the presidency, we will do our utmost to ensure that the accession of the Western Balkans, including the accession of North Macedonia, takes place as quickly as possible.”
The minister also touched upon the issue of energy security, pointing out that this is a critical issue for all countries, and that guaranteeing supply is a national responsibility and a national duty. “It must be made clear that no one has any right to jeopardize the security of energy supply of another country. “That is why Bulgaria’s latest move to ultimately increase the transit price of natural gas to Hungary, Serbia, and North Macedonia is a hostile step,” he said, adding that
Sofia had taken this step without any consultation, which he also considered unacceptable.
“Hungary is, of course, ready to respond to this hostile move within the EU framework with sufficient gravity,” he said. He stressed that the government had already taken the first step by asking the European Commission on Monday to launch infringement proceedings against Bulgaria and was ready to take further measures if necessary. North Macedonia and Hungary will consult and continuously coordinate the steps we are taking to ensure that Bulgaria does not jeopardize the energy supply of either countries with this decision, he emphasized.
Bujar Osmani praised the relations between the two states, pointing out that Hungary is now the tenth largest trading partner and the eighth largest investor in North Macedonia, and therefore he was optimistic about the future development of cooperation.
President of the European Council Charles Michel, in an interview published in the Croatian daily Vecernji List on Thursday, also called for the EU enlargement, in line with the Hungarian position. The EU must be ready for the enlargement by 2030, “we cannot delay any longer,” he said. He added that enlargement would remain a merit-based process, but that because of the time limit, they would ensure that they made progress and kept their promises.
Via MTI, Featured image: Facebook/Szijjártó Péter