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Szijjarto: Hungary, Austria settle issue of one of three restricted border crossings

Hungary and Austria have settled the issue of a restricted border crossing between Rajka and Deutsch Jahrndorf (Nemetjarfalu) but have yet to find a solution in the case of two other border crossings, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Vienna on Friday.

A dual approach should be applied in connection with borders, Szijjarto said after talks with Karoline Edtstadler, Austria’s minister for European and constitutional affairs, according to a ministry statement.

The border should be closed to those who intend to cross it illegally, but the border crossing process should be speeded up and should be as unrestricted as possible in the case of those who, like commuters, want to cross in line with the rules, Szijjarto said.

This was why, he said, Austria’s decision to restrict traffic at three border crossings was “disappointing”.

He said the two countries had reached an agreement that will allow all residents of Hungary’s Gyor-Moson-Sopron County to cross the border crossing between Rajka and Deutsch Jahrndorf.

But the problem at the crossing at Agfalva has yet to be resolved, Szijjarto said, noting that the mayor on the Austrian side was only allowing pedestrians to cross. The situation is similar at the Fertorakos border crossing which is also closed or significantly restricted for motorists, the minister said.

It is especially problematic that the latter crossing point had been set up using European Union resources specifically so that it could function as an alternative border crossing to the one at Sopron, Szijjarto said.

“I have therefore asked Austria’s minister for integration who also oversees European resources to take steps to convince the province of Burgenland or the local council not to take steps that go against common European agreements,” Szijjarto said.

He said he had been promised that Austria would soon put forward a proposal in connection with the Fertorakos border crossing on how to avoid harming the interests of Hungarians.

Szijjarto said there was no need for new security challenges given the serious difficulties already faced by the EU.

He said Hungary understood the importance of integrating the Western Balkans into the EU, arguing that otherwise it would remain a potential source of further security challenges.

He criticised the EU’s enlargement policy as “flawed”, and lamented the lack of progress in the last several years.

Szijjarto said this was because the more powerful European countries “and even the smaller western European ones” were “extremely condescending” towards the Western Balkan countries rather than speaking to them.

“Threats of sanctions, lecturing, condescension: this is what characterises western European attitude towards the Western Balkans when they should be talking to them,” Szijjarto said. “That is something we do on a regular basis.”

He noted that as part of the so-called Berlin Process, Western Balkan countries had agreed on the mutual recognition of higher-education degrees and travel using IDs, but this was vetoed by Bosnia’s Serbs.

The minister said he had spoken in person with the president of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and had asked him to reconsider. As a result, the Bosnian Serbs will likely approve two of the three Berlin Process agreements at the next meeting of the country’s presidency, Szijjarto said.

He said the lesson was that Europe should talk to the Western Balkan countries instead of talking about them, and then there would be greater hope for their swift EU integration.

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