Foreign Minister calls for EU enlargement to be speeded up

The foreign minister said the integration of Western Balkan countries would strengthen the bloc and help in the handling of current issues.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has called for EU enlargement to be speeded up, saying that the integration of Western Balkan countries would strengthen the bloc and help in the handling of current issues.
Minister Szijjártó met his Bosnia-Herzegovina counterpart, Elmedin Konaković, in Sarajevo, and noted at a joint press conference after the talks that the war in Ukraine presented the EU with serious challenges, the foreign ministry said in a statement. The situation has shown that the EU made a mistake when dragging its feet on enlargement in the past, he said. “Should the Western Balkans be part of the bloc, the dramatic impact of the current difficult situation could be handled far more easily,” he said, adding that the accession of the Western Balkan states would also bolster the bloc against illegal migration. Minister Szijjártó slammed member states which he said “support enlargement rhetorically but continue to block the process otherwise.” He called on “anti-enlargement countries” to stop blocking the process “as this harms the EU and is a national security risk for Hungary”, he said. Stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a priority for Hungary, he said, calling on the EU to “take meaningful steps” to facilitate its integration.

The foreign minister added that Hungary has already sent experts to Sarajevo to aid Bosnia-Herzegovina’s European Union accession process, and has deployed 165 troops to the EU’s peacekeeping mission in the country. He rejected the EU employing “any sort of sanctions on democratically elected leaders in the region”. “Those thinking we can solve a problem by sanctions have no idea of the situation here and are trying to conceal their ignorance with a sort of hubris.” Meanwhile, trade between Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina jumped by a record 21% last year, to 600 million euros, Minister Szijjártó said. Hungary has launched a mutually advantageous economic development scheme in the country, which allows local farmers to buy Hungarian agricultural machinery. Fully 805 companies have applied for the program, contracting a total of 11.5 million euros in support, he said. As regards migration, Minister Szijjártó said its root causes were becoming more grievous. He said this meant migration pressure was expected to grow from already high numbers last year when Hungarian authorities registered 265,000 illegal entry attempts. “Migration is dangerous and so it has to be stopped, and we know that the stronger the cooperation with Western Balkan states, the more effectively can we stop waves of migration,” he said.