Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Minister calls for speedy EU integration of Western Balkans

Szijjarto: Sanctions won’t lead to peace in Western Balkans

The use of sanctions will not bring about peace in the Western Balkans, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after meeting Bosnian officials on Tuesday, adding that European politicians should engage in talks with the local leaders in order to better understand the situation in the region.

According to a foreign ministry statement, Szijjarto first held talks with Dragan Covic, leader of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Hungary’s interest lies in peace, stability and calm in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the ministry quoted Szijjarto as saying. This requires the nations making up the country to be successful, he added.

Hungary’s government supports Bosnia’s ethnic Croat community in their full enforcement of the rights guaranteed to them by international treaties, Szijjarto said, adding that the community could count on Hungary’s backing on every European platform.

Szijjarto later met Bosnia’s Serb leader Milorad Dodik, and announced Hungary’s launch of a 30 million euro economic development scheme in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic.

“Peace in the Western Balkans cannot be achieved through sanctions,” Szijjarto said. “Therefore I ask European politicians to talk to President Dodik instead of talking about him, and then they will have a much better understanding of the situation here.”

Minister calls for speedy EU integration of Western Balkans

The “unacceptably” slow integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union is a “strategic mistake” and a risk to regional stability, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in his opening speech at the Mostar International Fair on Tuesday, where he called for the process to be speeded up.

“We who live in central Europe grasp the importance of the integration of the Western Balkans,” the foreign ministry cited Szijjarto as saying.

“Unfortunately, some member states and EU institutions are yet to grasp that … it is time we sent a message to Brussels to get off their high horse,” he said.

Szijjarto called for EU cooperation with the democratically elected leaders of the region “rather than talking about them”.

The Hungarian government’s landslide victory last Sunday, securing Fidesz’s fourth consecutive term, justifies its foreign policy based on national interests and mutual respect, he said.

Cooperation between Hungary and the Western Balkans, as well as Hungary’s steps to urge their speedy EU integration, are key points of that policy, he said. Serbia should be able to join immediately, and Bosnia and Herzegovina should receive candidate status, he said.

“With an election win under our belt, we are going to represent that stance even more resolutely,” he said.

Hungary’s trade with the states in the region came to a record 5.5 billion euros last year, he said.

Szijjarto arrived at the fair with a delegation of 24 Hungarian companies hoping to further strengthen ties with the region.

He thanked organisers for naming Hungary as partner of the fair, which runs from April 5 to 9.

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