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Szijjarto: EP election ‘crucial’ for future direction of EU

The June 9 election will be "crucial" for the future direction of the European Union, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said on Friday in Sankt Gallen, Switzerland.

Hungary rejects federalist ideas and prefers a strong union based on sovereign member states, Szijjarto said at a forum held at the city’s university.

After ridding itself of communism, Hungary rejoined Europe, which was then proud of its Christian heritage and seen as a prosperous community of sovereign states, he said.

Twenty years later, “a war is raging … in [Hungary’s] neighbourhood, and the country faces its direct and grave consequences,” he said, noting that more than one million refugees had passed through the country’s eastern borders.

Hungary, he added, was in the minority in the bloc in advocating for a ceasefire and peace negotiations starting in Ukraine as quickly as possible. No solution to the war exists on the battlefield, he said.

Szijjarto noted that many Transcarpathian Hungarians had been lost on the battlefield. “We don’t want any more Hungarians to die in this war…” he said.

Hungary, he noted, had strongly condemned the war from the start. Referring to accusations that he was “Putin’s spy” and a “Kremlin propagandist”, Szijjarto said he himself had stated Hungary’s condemnation in front of a thousand people in Moscow, “which not many other European politicians have the courage to do”. “It’s all very well doing so in Brussels, Washington and Berlin, but it doesn’t take much courage,” he added.

He said Hungary was in the midst of carrying out its biggest ever humanitarian mission but its chief responsibility was to protect the Hungarian people from the war, “which isn’t Hungary’s war”.

Referring to Hungary’s upcoming presidency of the EU, he said speeding up the EU integration process of the Western Balkans would be a top priority, and the accession of the relevant states was a “mutual interest”, being the best way to ensure peace and development in the region and to inject fresh new energy and momentum into the bloc, which, he insisted, was in “poor shape”.

The average waiting time for candidates from the region “is now 14 years and 11 months”, he said, adding that further foot-dragging would compromise the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy.

Szijjarto said it was clear that the EU had become stronger since its enlargement in 2004, and integrating the Western Balkan countries would have the same effect.

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