Speeding up Serbia’s EU integration is in the interests of Hungary and the whole of Europe, and Hungary will continue to back Serbia in its aspirations to join the bloc, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbia’s European integration minister, on Tuesday.
Szijjártó told a joint press conference after the meeting that enlargement was one of the key elements of the ongoing debate on the future of the EU, adding, however, that there was considerable opposition to expanding the bloc.
Hungary’s goal is for the EU to get stronger, and to do so, it needs new member states that can boost its security and economy, Szijjártó said. The Western Balkan states, he said, would meet these criteria.
Szijjártó: Speed Up EU Integration of Western Balkans
Szijjártó said the emergence of new migration waves and the chance that militants of the Islamic State terrorist group could return to the continent were the biggest threats to the security of the EU. Migration pressure, he said, was set to rise on the Western Balkan route, and argued that integrating the countries in that region into the EU and strengthening cooperation on border control would help boost the continent’s security.
Hungary supports speeding up Serbia’s EU accession and helps with the country’s border protection efforts, he said. As part of its assistance, Hungary sends police contingents to help out on the Serbian-Macedonian border and has posted a Hungarian diplomat at Serbia’s integration ministry, he added.
Szijjártó said EU enlargement was slow, adding that it was unfair towards the candidate countries that the EU has no plans to add new members before 2025. He criticised the European Commission’s handling of enlargement in recent years, lamenting what he called a lack of progress on the integration of the Western Balkan countries. Szijjártó said the EU should open all chapters of accession talks with Serbia this year.
The minister said Hungary and Serbia will hold a joint government meeting next month.
With Hungary’s economic growth having entered a new phase, he said, the time has come for the foreign investments of Hungarian companies to play a role equally as important as the investments of foreign companies in Hungary. Serbia is an important destination in this respect, Szijjártó added.
The Hungarian government will this year spend 7.5 billion forints (EUR 23.6m) on its economic development programme geared towards Vojvodina, he said.
Joksimovic said Hungary has always supported Serbia’s EU integration when not every member state is in favour of enlargement. She said it was important not to put the issue of enlargement on the back burner during the European parliamentary elections and the debate on the next EU budget.
On the featured photo: Jadranka Joksimovic and Péter Szijjártó. Photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI