Addressing the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs at a hearing this morning, Hungary’s EU Commissioner-designate Olivér Várhelyi said that as Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy he aims to build bridges between the EU’s top institutions and the states that surround Europe.
Having already garnered unanimous support in the EP’s Legal Affairs committee on Wednesday, Várhelyi – who has served as Hungary’s permanent representative to the European Union – emphasized the strategic importance of the EU’s neighboring countries.
“We need different goals and approaches with regard to different partner countries; we cannot apply a uniform theme,” Várhelyi said, pointing out the strategic importance of neighboring countries’ stability, security, and welfare. Therefore, he continued, if he’s elected Commissioner, he will work on improving the dialogue between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo by the end of next year.
“The EU should ready itself for welcoming new Member States,” the Hungarian diplomat stated, adding that accession negotiations should begin with Albania and North Macedonia as soon as possible. Otherwise, the EU’s credibility might be in jeopardy.
“The Western Balkans constitutes an integral part of Europe; keeping the option of accession open is therefore in our common interest,” Várhelyi said.
On the topic of Turkey, the Commissioner-designate said that the country “remains the EU’s strategic partner on multiple fronts.” He reminded those gathered that the country gives shelter to four million migrants and – in order to halt illegal migration - it is the EU’s duty to continue to give a helping hand. It’s in the bloc’s interest to strengthen cooperation on migration with the EU’s southern partners, he said.
While Várhelyi collected 30 votes from MEPs, he came short of the two-thirds required for being appointed after the first round of questions. The procedure continues and is expected to bear fruit on Monday afternoon.