Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto calls for speeding up EU integration of Western Balkans

The current crisis offers an opportunity to speed up the European Union integration on the Western Balkans, a national security and economic interest of Hungary and the EU, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday, after talks with Tanja Miscevic, Serbia's newly appointed minister for European integration.
21. February 2023 17:57

Szijjarto told a joint press conference after the talks that Europe was facing “grave security, economic and energy supply crises” because of the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to the war in Ukraine.

While the solution would be a speedy end to the conflict, EU enlargement could improve the bloc’s situation even among these difficult circumstances, he said.

The integration of Serbia, the largest country in the region, would be key in that process, he said, and called for opening the remaining 13 chapters in the country’s accession procedure. He said the integration progressed “unacceptably slowly” and slammed the “countries intentionally slowing it”, saying “all those slowing down integration are actually weakening the European Union”.

Serbia could greatly contribute to the bloc’s physical, economic and energy supply security, he said.

Migration pressure is growing in the region, and cooperation with Belgrade is a key element to border protection, he said.

“Hungary will, of course, protect its borders, even if it receives no help from Brussels. We will protect our borders, keep aggressive migrants out, and will also help Serbia in pushing the defence lines further south,” he said.

Regarding economic ties, Szijjarto noted that Hungarian-Serbian trade jumped by 68 percent to a record 6 billion euros last year. “We are ready to receive EU funds for cross-border economic development,” he said.

In 2022, Hungary imported some 5 billion cubic meters of gas via Serbia, the only east-west pipeline currently operating at 100 percent capacity, he said. “Hungary would be in great trouble if Serbia wasn’t a reliable transit country,” he said.

“The European Union would also be in a better position if it cooperated more closely with Serbia in ensuring physical security, energy security and in the economy,” he added.

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