Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka
The European Union currently needs the Western Balkans more than the states in the region need the European community, and accelerating the enlargement process is a matter of national security for Hungary, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Thursday at a panel discussion held in the framework of the Budapest Balkans Forum.
He said that the European Union is in increasingly bad shape for a number of reasons, one of which is the failure of the enlargement process. In his speech, he pointed out that the last time Croatia joined was about ten years ago, the longest period since 1973 without a new country joining, and that the community had lost a member in the process with the departure of the United Kingdom.
The more of us there are, the stronger we are. And the fewer we are, the weaker we are,”
he emphasized, complaining that despite this, supporters of rapid enlargement are not yet in the majority within the bloc.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister underlined that those who oppose enlargement weaken the European Union and that many countries are acting hypocritically by making public statements in favor of enlargement in the presence of the candidate countries, while at the same time creating all kinds of obstacles to the process, which he said was totally unacceptable.
Péter Szijjártó also pointed out that for Hungary, speeding up enlargement is a matter of national security, since the international community has so far been unable to tackle the root causes of illegal immigration, so there is a great risk of further waves of migration. He stated that
without effective cooperation in the Western Balkans, Europe will not be able to cope with the growing migratory pressure.
He also said that there is no real legal obstacle to speeding up the enlargement process, it is simply a lack of political will. Therefore, he stressed, Central Europe must keep up the pressure to break down artificial barriers.
The Foreign Minister also pointed out that the war in Ukraine could be another reason to speed up the EU enlargement process. He underlined that
the European Union needs to gather strength now, because the war is weakening us, and we can strengthen through enlargement.”
The panel discussion was also attended by Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka, who thanked Hungary for its strong support for the enlargement process and excellent partnership, and said that the EU’s lack of strategic thinking on the Western Balkans has been problematic for a long time.
North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said that his country had started on the road to integration in 2001, but had been stagnating ever since. He stressed that the region was “not the backyard of the EU, but its porch”, and until the states of the region are included, the community will have a hole in it and the project will not be completed.
Ivica Dacic, the head of Serbian diplomacy, said that the conditions for EU accession were constantly changing, making it a kind of “moving target”. He recalled, among other things, that Northern Macedonia had even changed its name in line with expectations, and yet no significant progress had been made since then. Nothing comes of signing various conventions, it is like signing napkins, he stated, questioning the credibility and credibility of the European Union. He also questioned whether there was really any problem in the region that would be of interest to the EU.
Featured photo via Facebook/Péter Szijjártó