The situation in the western Balkans and policies towards the region were major issues discussed by foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, joined by the representatives of Austria, Croatia and Slovenia, at their meeting in Budapest on Monday.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, which was the first such event under Hungary’s current V4 rotating presidency, the Hungarian foreign minister stressed the need of taking every possible effort towards the European integration of the western Balkans.
The region’s integration is crucial for ensuring its peace and stability, and for ensuring Europe’s security, Péter Szijjártó said.
“We must concede that we are in the twelfth hour as far as the western Balkans is concerned. Whereas every participant in the global and regional political arena has a strategy set towards the region, the European Union, it seems, does not,” he said.
A failure in speeding up the European integration process of the western Balkans would pose grave security challenges to the entire central European region, he said, adding that in lack of a “credible road map” designed for the western Balkans, serious tensions that had developed in that region could become unmanageable.
Participants in the meeting praised the Hungarian presidency’s programme, designed under the motto “V4 connects”, and urged a cooperation which could be felt in the everyday life of citizens.
Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak called the Hungarian programme “ambitious” and voiced his country’s full support. He advocated pragmatism and proposed that closer railway, energy, and digital links should be created to improve people’s lives. Those projects could greatly contribute to resolving problems at an EU level, he argued.
Witold Waszczykowski, Poland’s foreign minister, highlighted the areas of digitalisation and innovative society, and stressed the importance of north-south links and cooperation.
Jakub Durr, deputy foreign minister of the Czech Republic, said that the V4 cooperation should be present in everyday life; both citizens and businesses (of the four countries) need to be connected.
Hungary took over the V4 rotating presidency from Poland on July 1 for twelve months.