It is “shameful” that European enlargement has stalled in the recent period, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday in Podgorica. European security and economic competitiveness would improve with the integration of the Western Balkans, he added.
At a joint press conference with Montenegrin counterpart Ranko Krivokapic, Szijjártó said the EU faced serious economic and security challenges, noting the war in Ukraine and sanctions which have pushed up inflation, interest rates, and energy and commodity prices.
In the current situation,
the EU should be doing everything it can to reduce security risks and to maintain European economic competitiveness,
NATO, he said, already understood the security considerations and has approved the accession of three countries in the region. Now it was time for the EU to take the region with fast-growing economies seriously, he added.
Citing the case of Montenegro, Szijjártó noted that all thirty negotiating chapters had been opened, but not a single one had be concluded in the past five years. As a NATO member that uses the euro, and with a population of roughly 0.12 percent of the bloc’s population, admitting Montenegro “would be easy and risk-free”, he said.
Hungary has done all it can to bring Montenegro closer to the EU,
he said, noting big Hungarian corporate investments and Eximbank’s associated 35 million euro credit line.
Meanwhile, the minister said East-West transport corridors were clouded with uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine, making North-South trade routes such as the Budapest-Belgrade railway line ever more important. It would be strategically important for Hungary for the rail line from Belgrade to be extended to Bar, Montenegro’s biggest port. Hungary’s government stands ready to take part in the project, he said, adding that related negotiations were under way.
Szijjártó is scheduled to hold talks with finance minister Aleksandar Damjanovic, Deputy Prime Minister for Regional Development Ervin Ibrahimovic, and Minister of Economic Development and Tourism Goran Durovic.