Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Western Balkans integration key for Europe's security, minister says

Szijjarto: Georgia not being granted EU candidate status ‘harmful, wrong’

Georgia should have been granted EU candidate status alongside Ukraine and Moldova, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Tbilisi on Friday. He said the decision was "inexplicable ... and harmful to Europe".

While Szijjarto welcomed the recent decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, he added that Georgia deserved a place in the bloc, too.

The decision, he added, undermined the aim of strengthening the EU and amounted to a wasted opportunity.

The minister insisted that EU preconditions demanded of Georgia were “in many cases meaningless” and lacked “a system of objective criteria”.

“Brussels often applies the same double standards to us Hungarians,” he added.

Szijjarto said Hungary would boost its support for Georgia and do everything possible to bolster cooperation.

Support offered includes backing Georgia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council, continuing to provide 80 higher education scholarships to Georgian students each year, and opening a 140 million US dollar Eximbank credit line to promote bilateral business cooperation, he said.

After growing by 40 percent last year, trade turnover topped 60 million euros, and so far this year it has risen by 80 percent, he said.

Meanwhile, the minister said Hungary and Georgia wanted to see peace in Ukraine, adding that their respective governments were making strenuous efforts to ensure that their citizens did not have to contend with the threat of war and would “not pay the price of war”. At the same time, both countries support Ukraine and are running major humanitarian missions, he noted.

Western Balkans integration key for Europe’s security, minister says

“Brussels and every capital in western Europe should understand that soon it will be difficult to talk about security in Europe without integrating the Western Balkans into the European Union,” Szijjarto said in a video message on Facebook on Friday. “We in the neighbourhood of the Western Balkans are fully aware how important stability in that region is, and it would be good if this were understood in western Europe, too,” .

Referring to European Council decisions passed on Thursday, Szijjarto said “they caused disappoinment in several countries aspiring to join the EU.”

Szijjarto noted his talks by phone with Christian Schmidt, High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as with Milorad Dodik, Serb member of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dodik, referring to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s political divisions, said “there is one question in which everybody has arrived at a consensus … namely the importance of European integration”, Szijjarto quoted him as saying.

“It would be good if the EU helped Bosnians to reinforce that consensus,” he said.

Szijjarto said he regretted that Georgia had not been granted EU candidate status. “We think that country has implemented all measures required for candidacy,” he added. Georgia and its leaders are committed to joining and “we cannot understand why such a discouraging decision was passed”, he said.

The minister said he was leaving for Georgia “to confirm our support to our Georgian friends’ EU integration”.

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