Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in his address at the 11th Conference of the Parliamentary Speakers of Southeast European Countries in Budapest, emphasized the vital role of the newly admitted countries in bringing dynamism, growth, energy, and strength to the European Union's economy. "In recent years, it's the economies of the newer members that have infused vitality into the EU," Orbán stated.
The prime minister underscored the pivotal moment Europe faces in considering the Western Balkans. He observed that while the EU's expansion has often been met with criticism rather than recognition, it remains a crucial process. "The expansion must happen," PM Orbán asserted, highlighting the need to advocate for a positive view of this enlargement within the EU.
He also pointed out that for countries like Hungary, which joined the EU later, expansion has always been seen as an opportunity. "Some view expansion negatively, attributing the EU's challenges to the accession of post-Soviet countries. However, it's undeniable that the recent dynamism and growth in the EU have been driven by these newer economies," he noted.
Addressing the geopolitical landscape, PM Orbán mentioned a "geopolitical gap" between Greece and Hungary regarding EU membership. "If we don't integrate this region, others will make plans for it," he cautioned, emphasizing the importance of filling this gap.
He further discussed the Hungarian-Serbian border's evolving role as a meeting point between the Chinese free trade zone and the EU's common market. While acknowledging the challenges of aligning Serbia's agreements with the EU, PM Orbán praised Serbia's strategy of keeping multiple options open as a way to prompt action in Europe.
Turning to the Russian-Ukrainian war, PM Orbán highlighted its disruptive impact. "The conflict has unsettled the EU itself, collapsing the previously envisioned security architecture that relied on cheap Russian energy and high-quality European technology," he stated. According to him, this collapse, exacerbated by sanctions, has left Europe searching for new ways to ensure its security.
Concluding his address, PM Orbán spoke against the necessity of institutional reforms within the EU for the accession of the most prepared Southeast European countries. He supported the European Commission's proposal for candidate countries to start reaping membership benefits before official accession and advocated for EU funding support between 2024 and 2027 to promote growth in these countries. "Hungary is willing to contribute more to the EU budget to facilitate this process," the prime minister affirmed.