Brussels keeps lecturing the Western Balkans

by Cristian Florescu

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó expressed Hungary’s strong support for the European integration of the Western Balkans and respectfully urged for the acceleration of the enlargement of the European Union during a speech in Budapest on Friday.

According to a statement from the Ministry, Szijjártó expressed that the Western Balkans has always held significance for Hungary, and the current conflict in Ukraine has further emphasized the importance of the region. This was shared during a press conference with Stasa Kosarac, Bosnia’s Minister for Foreign Trade.

Szijjártó expressed that Hungary believes that promoting peace, calm, and security in the Western Balkans is crucial for their national interest. He believes that the most effective method to achieve this goal is through the integration of the region into the EU and promoting economic development. Hungary is committed to supporting the EU integration and economic development of the Western Balkans. However, the slow progress of the EU enlargement process could lead to instability and push the Western Balkans to look for alternatives. The minister believes that Brussels should approach the Western Balkans with mutual respect instead of lecturing them. Therefore, it is important to talk with the Western Balkans rather than just about them.

The representative stated that Hungary is dedicated to supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to join the EU. Additionally, there are Hungarian experts who are assisting with the process. Hungary is also focused on fostering economic growth in the region and has implemented an economic development program in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic. Local farmers and businesses have been provided with support amounting to 11 million euros, which they can use to purchase Hungarian agricultural machinery. The government has plans to provide further support in June, with a total worth of 17 million euros.

Szijjártó expressed his appreciation for the increase in bilateral trade turnover, which reached a record of 600 million euros last year. He emphasized the importance of Hungarian businesses’ involvement in the installation of solar farms in Bosnia and Herzegovina in boosting trade. Additionally, both Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina share a common interest in ending the war in Ukraine as soon as possible. Energy security is a top priority for both countries, and the TurkStream gas pipeline is essential for achieving this goal. Szijjártó believes that the EU needs to take an active role in the expansion and improvement of Southeast Europe’s energy infrastructure to ensure the region’s energy supply. He respectfully suggests that if the EU does not provide financial resources to support the renovation, upgrade, and capacity expansion of Southeast Europe’s energy supply network, then it will have no legal basis to decide where these countries should buy their energy from.

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