FM: Hungary’s will be the “most pro-enlargement EU presidency of all time”

The focus during accession talks would be on the actual performance of candidate countries rather than bowing to political pressure.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said in Brussels on Tuesday that Hungary’s will be the “most pro-enlargement European Union presidency of all time”, adding that the focus during accession talks would be on the “actual performance” of candidate countries rather than “bowing to political pressure”.

“We won’t allow the accession processes of certain countries to be artificially tied to one another,” Minister Szijjártó told a press conference after a meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council. “We won’t allow the accession processes of any of the better-performing countries to be taken hostage by those that are falling behind.” “We will put the focus on actual performance during the accession talks, rather than bowing to some kind of political pressure which, in fact, comes from outside players, non-EU countries and NGOs,” the minister said. Minister Szijjártó also said that a candidate country being at war will not be considered a merit during the accession talks, warning that the bloc must not import any kind of armed conflict. He said enlargement should be about expanding the possibility of stability and peaceful progress beyond the current territory of the EU rather than bringing the threat of war into the bloc. Meanwhile, the minister said the accession process should be “grounded in reality” during Hungary’s presidency, with candidate countries having to meet “sensible expectations”. He explained that candidate countries should not be expected, for example, to fully adhere to the bloc’s foreign and security policy, arguing that “regional realities should also be taken into consideration”. “We also won’t allow good-sounding but nonsensical requirements to be set … we can’t set targets that EU member states themselves can’t meet, either,” he said.

Minister Szijjártó said that during its EU presidency, Hungary will want to help Serbia open new accession chapters, Montenegro close multiple chapters, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova to start actual, meaningful negotiations. The EU needs new member states that can bring much-needed momentum and freshness, such as the Western Balkan countries, Georgia or Moldova, Szijjártó said. He criticised what he called “hypocrisy” and “double standards” applied by certain member states and their leaders, who he said publicly supported enlargement but kept putting “artificial” roadblocks in front of the accession process.
Meanwhile, Szijjártó said the EU should also speed up the integration process of the Western Balkan countries to forestall the spread of the influence of other states, “including Russia”. Large powers will “naturally” try to gain influence in countries not integrated into regional blocs, he said. The EU is in an optimal position to open towards those states while the popularity of their membership is still high, albeit falling, he said. “The longer we drag our feet on the accession process, the bigger the scepticism will grow.” Szijjártó said that the “hypocrisy” of certain member states on the issue, “who say one thing publicly and act very differently in the decision-making process”, may be rooted in a fear that “the liberal mainstream may not prevail so easily if the common sense of the Balkans takes part in EU decision-making.” The upcoming EP elections “are a ray of hope” that that trend will turn, he said. Regarding Ukraine’s accession process, Szijjártó noted that the next step, setting up a negotiating framework, requires unanimous decisions. Thus, Hungary can also represent its interests, especially those regarding the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians, he added. “Ukraine will be able to say that the rights of the Hungarian minority are respected if they have restored the 2015 state of affairs,” he said.