Szijjarto: Hungary staunch supporter of Western Balkans’ EU integration
The Western Balkans has always been important to Hungary, and the ongoing war in Ukraine has made the region even more important, Szijjarto told a press conference he held jointly with Stasa Kosarac, Bosnia’s minister for foreign trade, according to a ministry statement.
Peace, calm and security in the Western Balkans is in Hungary’s national interest, Szijjarto said. The best way to achieve that is EU integration and economic development, he added.
“Hungary is therefore a committed supporter of the EU integration of the Western Balkans and also supports the region’s economic development,” he added.
The minister said the “snail’s pace” of progress in EU enlargement could “easily cause instability and lead to the Western Balkans turning elsewhere”.
“Unfortunately, Brussels regularly proceeds to lecture the Western Balkans instead of applying a voice of mutual respect,” Szijjarto said. “So often in Brussels they talk about the Western Balkans instead of talking with the Western Balkans, and this is rather irresponsible.”
Hungary is committed in its support for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU accession, he said, adding that there were Hungarian experts aiding the process.
Hungary also promotes economic growth in the region, he said, noting that the government has launched an economic development programme in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic. Fully 768 local farmers and businesses have been supported with a total of 11 million euros through the scheme, which they could use to buy Hungarian agricultural machinery, Szijjarto added.
An agreement has been reached on the launch of another round of support worth a total 17 million euros in early June, he said.
Szijjarto welcomed that bilateral trade turnover reached a record 600 million euros last year. The involvement of Hungarian businesses in the installation of solar farms in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be important to boosting trade, he added.
Meanwhile, Szijjarto said both Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina were interested in the war in Ukraine ending as soon as possible.
Both countries see energy security as a priority, and the TurkStream gas pipeline is key for both of them, Szijjarto said.
He said that to guarantee the region’s energy supply, the EU could no longer afford to be “passive” when it came to the capacity expansion and upgrade of southeast Europe’s energy infrastructure.
“This is a European issue,” Szijjarto said. “We can’t have Brussels determine where we should buy natural gas and oil from, only to then not provide any assistance in developing the infrastructure.”
“If the European Union doesn’t contribute financial resources to the renovation, upgrade and capacity expansion of southeast Europe’s energy supply network, it will have no legal basis to have a say in where and from whom these countries buy what kind of energy,” Szijjarto said.