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‘Shameful’ how EU enlargement advancing so slowly, prime minister says

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Tirana on Friday called it "unacceptable and shameful" that European Union enlargement was advancing so slowly.
16. June 2023 16:43

After meeting Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during his official visit to Albania, Orbán said it had taken Albania 13 years get on the accession negotiating track with the EU.

It is only in the Balkans that Europe will find new impetus for economic growth and maintaining its competitiveness, he said, calling for the integration of the region to be speeded up. Hungary “strongly supports” Albania’s accession process, he added.

Orbán said there was serious restructuring going on in the global economy which highlighted Europe’s weaknesses, and the continent was becoming less competitive at the global level. This is a reason to create the conditions for Albania and the Western Balkan region’s integration, he said, adding that it was central Europe that was currently sustaining the EU’s dynamism.

Europe needs to be strengthened both in terms of its economy and security, the prime minister said.

But western Europe remains unconvinced that enlargement promotes integration, so “there is more work to do” in the interest of Albania’s EU membership as well, Orbán said.

Hungary supports the idea that by 2030, EU cohesion funds should proportionally be at the level of the funding received by older member states, he said. Hungary’s government has also welcomed the proposal that a country should not necessarily have to be an EU member in order to join the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone, he added.

During his visit to Tirana, Orbán also held talks with Albania’s Speaker of Parliament Lindita Nikolla.

The two countries’ delegations signed multiple cooperation agreements, including on water management and the European integration process. Hungary’s delegation also included Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Economic Development Minister Marton Nagy.

Meanwhile, Orbán said major results in bilateral economic cooperation had been achieved in recent years, and the two leaders agreed to continue this work in the coming years.

Hungary and Albania are also bound by their “shared history of suffering”, Orbán said, noting that both countries had been under communist rule for 40 years.

Orbán said he was happy to hear Rama express confidence in Hungarian investors, adding that he had asked Albanian investors to come to Hungary, too.

Rama praised Orbán for his belief in Albania, saying that bilateral cooperation had taken “a new turn” since their last meeting in Budapest. He welcomed the steps taken by Budapest in support of Tirana’s integration, such as sharing its experiences in EU accession and its role in the establishment of a fund to support the integration of the Western Balkans.

He called bilateral ties “excellent”, noting Hungarian President Katalin Novak’s recent visit to Tirana.

Rama highlighted the presence of Hungarian businesses in Albania’s telecommunications and banking sectors, noting the activities of IT company 4iG and OTP Bank. He added that there were new opportunities in energy and tourism, highlighting the latter industry as a bridge between the two countries.

Orbán said that though Hungary was landlocked, its tourism sector accounted for more than 11 percent of GDP.

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