The European integration of the Western Balkans would contribute to increased security in the EU, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Belgrade on Friday, on the sidelines of a summit meeting of the Open Balkan initiative.
The war in Ukraine and its detrimental effect on energy supplies have created a situation in Europe that could lead to a “catastrophic weakening of the EU”, he said, and slammed EU leaders for “failing to prevent that the people of Europe should pay the price of the war”.
“We must make it clear that enlargement policy must be the most important policy of the EU,” he said, adding that “Europe is in dire need of the Balkans”.
Szijjártó noted the detrimental impact of the war on food supplies, and said hundreds of millions of people could face starvation, which could lead to further waves of migration. “Regrettably, the first signs are showing at Hungary’s borders, where the aggression of migrants and people smugglers has reached a new level,” he said.
“To avoid a scenario which we saw in 2015, we need action coordinated with Western Balkans countries,” he said. Integration of those countries would eliminate a “double security pressure” on Europe, both from the south and the east, he insisted. Szijjártó praised Turkey for its mediation between Russia and Ukraine, and Serbia for its efforts to protect the border with Hungary.
On the subject of energy security, the minister said “Hungary would be in extremely big trouble without the Turkish Stream pipeline” built in cooperation with Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia. He called it “the only safe transit” with regard to recent difficulties with the western and northern supply routes. “The Western Balkans ensures a safe and reliable transit,” he said.
In another development, Szijjártó said enlarging the European common market to the Western Balkans would “by all means help an ailing European economy”, adding that Hungary had increased its trade with that region by 87 percent in the past decade.
Szijjártó voiced disagreement with the EU’s current enlargement policy, and said “if it were for Budapest, Western Balkans countries would now all be EU members”. He also said the Hungarian government was ready to build closer cooperation with countries of the Open Balkan to promote the security of energy and food supplies.
Open Balkan has been founded by Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania to strengthen economic ties and promote free movement of goods and labour. Friday’s meeting was also attended by the prime ministers of Bosnia and Montenegro, and the foreign minister of Turkey.
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