PM Orbán: Hungary backs swift EU membership for Balkan countries and Bosnia and Herzegovina

The prime minister said the war in Ukraine increases the importance of the role of the Balkans, arguing that the region was Europe’s last major reserve of resources.

Speaking in Sarajevo, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Hungary supports swift European Union membership for the Balkan countries and Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that the EU needed the Balkans more than vice versa.

After talks with Borjana Kristo, chairwoman of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Council of Ministers, PM Orbán said the war in Ukraine increases the importance of the role of the Balkans, arguing that the region was Europe’s last major reserve of resources. The EU needs all the dynamism it can get because it is losing its competitiveness, he added. PM Orbán said Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina were considered “neighbours in a political and economic sense”. This is how Hungary views Sarajevo, he said, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina could always count on a responsible neighbourhood policy on Hungary’s part. The prime minister said vast changes were afoot in the European Union’s economy, technologies and security policy, as seen in connection with the Russia-Ukraine war “and the European involvement in it”. Orbán said Hungary maintained a sovereign foreign policy, meaning that “regardless of what they say in Brussels”, Hungary supported swift European Union membership for the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina. One aspect of Hungary’s Balkans policy, he said, was the position that the region’s countries should receive cohesion funding before they officially join the bloc and that they should be given access to development funds in advance. “We can’t have all the money going to Ukraine,” Orbán said, adding that funding must also be allocated towards fostering growth and security in the Balkans. He reaffirmed Hungary’s opposition to sanctions-based policies, arguing that they were ineffective.

The long-term solution to the region’s problems lies in the coexistence of the local peoples rather than “the presence of foreigners”, Orbán said.
He said Hungary remained prepared to contribute towards guaranteeing the region’s security and even bolster its current role in the EUFOR mission.
Orbán and Kristo praised cooperation between their countries. Orbán reaffirmed his government’s invitation to Sarajevo to propose economic sectors that would welcome Hungarian investment, noting Hungarian presence in the country’s air transport, financial and renewable energy sectors.
The two leaders said they were convinced that their meeting would boost bilateral relations. Orbán said the talks had been “a good start” and would provide ministers and businesspeople with an opportunity to “give depth and dynamism” to further cooperation. Orbán praised the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “complex political system”. He said the two countries shared similar fates, noting that they had both suffered under communist rule and were still undergoing the post-communist transition. Orbán said he had received “friendship and respect” from the new Bosnian government, which he said Hungary reciprocated. Kristo thanked Hungary for its support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU candidate status. She said Bosnia and Herzegovina, alongside the broader Western Balkans, were “a desirable factor” for the EU, adding that her country enjoyed friendly and good neighbourly relations with Hungary. During his visit to Sarajevo, Orbán met the three members of the country’s presidency and paid a visit to its parliament. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to hold talks with Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidential troika, in Banja Luka. Orbán is being accompanied on his trip by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.