Budapest, November 23 (MTI) – The European Union must speed up enlargement in order to overcome its problems, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with Albanian EU integration minister Klajda Gjosha on Wednesday. Integrating the western Balkans would strengthen the bloc, he said.
The current challenges faced by the EU should not be used as an excuse to turn inward, Szijjártó said. Enlargement should be accelerated as much as possible otherwise the EU will become weaker and less competitive, he added. That the western Balkans appear as a “white spot on the map” is “nonsensical”, he said.
Hungary supports EU enlargement in general and it also categorically stands for and encourages the integration of the western Balkans, Szijjártó said. “The more there are of us, the stronger we are,” he added. Western Balkan integration also serves the economic interests of Hungary because countries in the region are important trading and economic partners, and the western Balkans has always been an important region for the most major Hungarian companies.
It is also a security issue because Hungary knows what it is like when instability is experienced in neighbouring countries to its south as opposed to when peace prevails, he said. So Hungary speaks out of experience when it says that the fastest and simplest way to security in the region is integration, he added.
Albania plays an important role from the point of security in south-eastern Europe, and when the country is stable, the whole region benefits. As a result, the European Council should give a clear timetable for Albania’s accession talks at a December meeting and these talks should be started as soon as possible, Szijjártó said. Albania is following the right path when it comes to reforms, so Hungary is trying to encourage joint central European support for the case, he added.
Szijjártó said that a Hungarian ministry official will work in the Albanian ministry for EU integration from February to help the Albanian government to fulfil its EU membership aspiration.
Direct flights will operate between Budapest and Tirana from next April, he noted.
Economic cooperation has progressed well, with a 26 percent increase in bilateral trade in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period of last year, he said.
Gjosha said EU accession is a historic moment that Albania does not want to miss, and the country will also rely on Hungary’s help in the process. The Albanian ministry has high hopes for the arrival of the Hungarian expert because Hungary has already gone through integration and can share useful experiences in order to help Albania prevent mistakes. She praised the “close and traditionally good” bilateral relations.