The building of the European Parliament in Brussels – Photo: wikipedia

Szijjarto: EU enlargement in Western Balkans ‘economic as well as political, security interest’

Integrating Western Balkan countries is a vital economic interest as well as a political and security need, and the European Union's track record in this respect "is shameful and unacceptable", Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Paris on Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, the minister said that Hungary valued highly the OECD’s activities in the Western Balkans which had aided the region’s stability, peace and development.

In the course of Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency, the government therefore wants to tighten cooperation between the EU and the OECD, he added.

Western Balkan states, he said, had been waiting for more than 15 years on average to join the bloc.

Unless the integration process was speeded up, the credibility of the entire enlargement policy “will be at risk”, he said.

Szijjarto called for accession standards to be based on merit, adding that this should apply to “everyone”. “Double standards are unacceptable,” he added.

Arguing that the bloc’s competitiveness was in decline, he said the Western Balkans could add fresh impetus and dynamism to the bloc, and the EU now needed the Western Balkans more than the other way around, but the latter would not wait indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto lamented that free trade and global economic cooperation was being replaced by “uncoupling and de-risking”.

The minister hailed the OECD for being “the last international organisation that has managed to avoid politicisation”, adding that the organisation was undergirded by “common sense and professionalism”.

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