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Szijjarto: Western Balkans enlargement would strengthen EU

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Wednesday called for European Union enlargement to be speeded up, saying that the integration of Western Balkan countries would strengthen the bloc and help in the handling of current issues.
22. March 2023 17:27

Szijjarto met his Bosnia-Herzegovina counterpart, Elmedin Konakovic, in Sarajevo, and noted at a joint press conference after the talks that the war in Ukraine presented the EU with serious challenges, the ministry said in a statement.

The situation has shown that the EU made a mistake when dragging its feet on enlargement in the past, he said.

“Should the Western Balkans be part of the bloc, the dramatic impact of the current difficult situation could be handled far more easily,” he said, adding that the accession of the Western Balkan states would also bolster the bloc against illegal migration.

Szijjarto slammed member states which he said “support enlargement rhetorically but continue to block the process otherwise.” He called on “anti-enlargement countries” to stop blocking the process “as this harms the EU and is a national security risk for Hungary”, he said.

The root causes of migration are becoming more grievous, and so migration pressure is expected to grow from already high numbers last year, when Hungarian authorities registered 265,000 illegal entry attempts, he said.

“Migration is dangerous and so it has to be stopped, and we know that the stronger the cooperation with Western Balkan states, the more effectively can we stop waves of migration,” he said.

Stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a priority for Hungary, he said, calling on the EU to “take meaningful steps” to facilitate its integration.

Hungary has already sent experts to Sarajevo to aid the accession process, and has deployed 165 troops to the EU’s peace keeping mission in the country, he noted.

Szijjarto rejected the EU employing “any sort of sanctions on democratically elected leaders in the region”. “Those thinking we can solve a problem by sanctions have no idea of the situation here and are trying to conceal their ignorance with a sort of hubris.”

Meanwhile, trade between Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina jumped by a record 21 percent last year, to 600 million euros, he said.

Hungary has launched a mutually advantageous economic development scheme in the country, which allows local farmers to buy Hungarian agricultural machinery. Fully 805 companies have applied for the programme, contracting a total of 11.5 million euros in support, he said.

Regarding the re-election of Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s presidential troika, he said Hungary respected the results. At the same time, he rejected the US State Department’s latest report on Bosnia-Herzegovina, saying it was “outrageous that they should make statements about other countries’ internal affairs and situation”.

Szijjarto said that though Konakovic was not in need of his support, he still wanted to voice his objection to the State Department’s report.

“I must say I’m shocked and each year I’m amazed that the US State Department has the audacity to label other countries and make such ex cathedra statements about the internal affairs and situation of other countries,” Szijjarto said.

“Who are they to do this? I have no knowledge of the foreign ministry of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and especially mine, writing reports about the human rights or other situations of other countries. Why? Because for one thing, it’s not our job to do so, and also it’s none of our business,” he said.

Szijjarto said the decision on who should govern Bosnia-Herzegovina and the question of whether the public is satisfied with the state of their country should be left up to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He said Washington should also leave it up to Hungarians to decide what happens in Hungary.

“We object to anyone questioning Hungarian democracy and the will expressed by the Hungarian people in democratic elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said cooperation between Hungary and Dodik was fair and based on mutual respect, adding that Bosnia-Herzegovina’s territorial integrity was beyond dispute.

Szijjarto said there was “no mutual respect in international politics today”. Certain countries are very willing to interfere in the affairs of other countries, he said, adding that Hungary never questions the outcome of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s elections.

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