Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto discusses EU integration, war with Bosnian counterpart

The European Union has a historic obligation to boost the integration of the Western Balkans, and abandoning that plan would seriously harm Hungary's security interests, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said on Wednesday, after talks with his Bosnia and Herzegovinan counterpart, Bisera Turkovic.

Szijjarto told a joint press conference with Turkovic that Hungary wanted to avoid at all cost “having to face security challenges similar to those in Ukraine from the southern border”, the ministry said in a statement.

He welcomed the EU decision to grant candidate membership to Ukraine and Moldova, and called it a “grave mistake” and “double standards” that Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to obtain that status.

“EU membership is one of the few causes over which there is a general consensus in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. The candidacy could have strengthened cross-party cooperation and national stability in that country, he said.

Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia have sent a letter to the European Council, asking for the issue to be tabled in October, and for a decision to be made by December, he said.

Szijjarto said the Hungarian government saw respectful dialogue with Western Balkan leaders as a priority, rather than engaging in “threats and sanctions”, which he said was “not a path to be followed”.

Regarding concrete steps taken by Hungary to aid Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU integration, Szijjarto noted the “integration expert” Hungary had delegated to the Bosnian foreign ministry, the Hungarian embassy’s liaison work with NATO in Sarajevo and the fact that Hungary’s 164-strong contingent is one of the largest in the EU’s peacekeeping mission in the country.

Bilateral trade between Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina reached 500 million euros last year and has grown by 31 percent this year already, he said. Hungarian discount airline Wizz Air is poised to open its fourth base in the country in Mostar, he said.

Responding to questions on the accusations of racism levelled against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s speech in Baile Tusnad (Tusnadfurdo), Romania, on Saturday, Szijjarto said the claims were “nonsense”. “I have been working in the immediate vicinity of Viktor Orban for 16 years, and I am fully aware that the heart and soul of his politics is zero tolerance against anti-Semitism and racism,” he said.

Attacks against Hungary’s government have multiplied since the migration crisis of 2015, and “every similar statement gets twisted.” He called Frans Timmermans, the European Commission Vice-President who levelled criticism at the government, “one of the most harmful politicians in the history of the EU”.

Regarding the market purchase of an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas over the contracted volume, which Hungary hopes to conclude to boost supplies for the winter, Szijjarto said his “hopes are growing day by day … in light of trade and political talks in both directions”. “We will use the gas we bought on Hungarian taxpayer money and stored in Hungarian reservoirs as dictated by the interests of the Hungarian people and economy. We will make no compromises on that,” he said.

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