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Justice minister: EU enlargement key to future of Europe

The key to the future of Europe is the enlargement of the European Union and it must be understood that the Western Balkans are "a member of the European family" in terms of their geography, history and economy, Justice Minister Judit Varga said on Monday.

Varga told the international forum “Dialogue on the Future of Europe: Is enlargement a key to the future?” that Brussels should stop practices that result in the alienation of member states.

“The time has come for welcoming new countries in our community and build a stronger EU based on stronger nations,” she told the conference organised by the foreign ministry and the Ferenc Madl Institute of Comparative Law.

She called for accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia to be started without delay and for consultations with Serbia and Montenegro to be launched before the end of the year.

Oliver Varhelyi, the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said enlargement was the “EU’s strategic response to its own development”, adding that good relations with its neighbours were key to the EU’s future.

The “European perspective” is an engine of consolidation in the region and contributes to more resilient countries and economic and social welfare, he said.

“The EU can only become stronger if it fully integrates the Western Balkans… It was key that the new European Commission has declared enlargement a priority to break the impasse,” he said.

The EU has also developed an economic development plan which will pump 30 billion euros of funding into region. The flagship projects will be in energy industry, transport, green energy resources and broadband networks, the commissioner said. The EU has also provided 3.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to the Western Balkans, he added.

Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said the EU would only have a chance of regaining its strength if most powers needed for the management of the economic, migration and health crises are given back to member states. The EU’s future lies more in its member states than in Brussels, the foreign ministry cited Szijjarto as saying.

Szijjarto said the EU’s responses to the financial crisis of 2008, the 2015 migration crisis and the coronavirus pandemic had been “too ideological in nature” and had left little room for democratic debate.

During this period, the EU’s competitors managed to retain or even strengthen their share of global economic output, the minister said. Further, the EU’s level of competitiveness is also hurt by “communistic proposals” such as the call to discriminate against nuclear energy, the bloc’s mobility package “which puts central European road haulage companies at a disadvantage” and attempts to harmonise tax, Szijjarto said.

Stifling competition among member states also hurts the EU’s external competitiveness, he said, stressing that Hungary would carry on with its tax cuts and investment promotion measures.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said the EU’s migration policy had been “a total failure”, which he said was well illustrated by the fact that the continent was under migration pressure from three different directions. “Whether this was actually their goal — to have us be under as much pressure as possible and have as many migrants coming to Europe as possible — is another question.” he said.

The minister said the European Commission “supports everything that increases migration and supports nothing that would stop it”. Only member states can stop illegal migration, he said, adding that this was crucial given that migration today posed security, civilisational and also health risks.

As regards the pandemic, Szijjarto said it had demonstrated that “when there was a need for real leadership decisions, the institutions failed”, and the effective response measures had all come from the national governments.

Szijjarto also urged speeding up the EU’s enlargement in the Western Balkans, saying it was critical for strengthening the bloc after Brexit.

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