The European Union should speed up its enlargement in the Western Balkan region, President János Áder said after talks with Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic in Budapest on Tuesday.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Áder said that the EU should set “clear criteria and deadlines” and hold “effective negotiations”. “Montenegro is ready to join the EU in short order,” Áder added.
Áder noted that NATO’s Bucharest Nine group had met on Monday, with US President Joe Biden joining the talks. NATO needs to continue to focus on “challenges from the South” such as terrorism, migration and “a political vacuum in the Western Balkans resulting from the interruption of the European integration process,” Áder said.
Áder said that while “the EU’s enlargement policy has lost credibility”, the coronavirus crisis and economic difficulties could increase social tensions. “If we have ethnic tensions in addition, that could become a source of serious political tension and national security risks,” he said, adding he had therefore asked the new US administration to pay heightened attention to the Western Balkans and urged the EU to boost the integration process.
The EU has not concluded a single chapter in its accession talks with Montenegro since 2017, Áder said, adding that “you can’t call that progress”. Montenegro has proven its capabilities and commitment as a NATO member, and it could “probably do the same” in terms of its EU integration, he insisted.
Answering a question, Áder said he hoped that a recent proposal by Oliver VÁrhelyi, Hungary’s EU commissioner for enlargement, could give momentum to the Montenegro talks.
Dukanovic thanked Hungary for its support for endeavours in the Western Balkans to join the EU and NATO, adding that integration was in the interest of both the bloc and the region.
He noted that the EU’s enlargement policy had been “restrained” in recent years and “commitment to reforms has slackened in the region”. Exploiting the vacuum, other countries “have turned up and are trying to promote their own geo-political interests,” he said, adding that it was unreasonable of the EU “to allow those countries take the initiative”.
Dukanovic thanked Hungary for its support for endeavours in the Western Balkans to join the EU and NATO, adding that integration was in the interest of both organisations.
In the featured photo: President Áder(right) with Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic. Photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI