FM: Stalled Western Balkans integration is failure of bloc

The foreign minister warned that the EU should speed up the process after being “weakened by recent security crises”.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, warned that the EU should speed up the process after being “weakened by recent security crises”. After meeting Montenegro’s finance minister, Aleksandar Damjanović, in Budapest, Minister Szijjártó told a joint press conference that the Western Balkans was key to strengthening the EU and that enlargement should be a focal point of EU policy. “The extremely slow enlargement process weakens the EU further, which is very problematic amid various security crises,” he said. The EU has opened all chapters for Montenegro’s integration but has closed none in the past five-and-a-half years, he said. Hungary has called on the Czech presidency to convene an intergovernmental conference to “close several chapters”, Minister Szijjártó said. Hungary has a security and economic interest in the EU integration of the Western Balkans, he said.

Referring to migration, he said “defence lines” should be pushed further south thereby freeing Hungary’s borders of “the siege of illegal migrants”. Integration would also bring new economic opportunities, he added. A Hungarian-owned company is already the market leader in Montenegro’s banking sector, and another is the second largest in the telecommunication sector, he noted. Hungary’s government continues to support the success of Hungarian companies abroad, a measuring key to avoiding recession, he said. Meanwhile, the EU is under double pressure from the war in Ukraine in the east and the fallout of illegal migration in the south, he said. Hungary itself has received 1 million Ukrainian refugees this year and thwarted 235,000 attempts of illegal entry in the south, he said. He also reiterated that, while Hungary is ready to continue supporting Ukraine on the basis of bilateral agreements, it will not agree to EU member states taking out loans jointly for that purpose. “We have seen how that works during the coronavirus pandemic; we have seen what a joint loan looks like. It was a valuable experience, and we will not support it again,” he said. Responding to a question, Szijjártó said the US midterm elections underway on Tuesday would have a big impact on the future of Hungarian-US cooperation. The government is following events there closely, he said. Regarding Hungary’s gas supply contracts, he said “without harming trade secrets and national security interests, I can only say that the price calculation formula in the contract makes purchase prices sensitive to changes in European share prices.”