The European Union should make an important decision: it should accelerate the process of enlargement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated in Budapest on Tuesday.

Péter Szijjártó received Tudor Ulianovschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, in his office. After their talks, the parties delivered speeches to the ambassadors of Hungary as part of the autumn conference of mission heads. The event was attended by members of the press. In his speech Mr Szijjártó highlighted: The government takes the view that the EU will be able to become competitive again in the long run if it is also able to look ahead and make meaningful decisions on strategic issues as well, rather than dealing only with day-to-day problems.

He said the EU is facing major challenges as the migration crisis which remains unresolved to this day has created parallel societies, and has brought about an unprecedented threat of terrorism on the continent. “The more we are the stronger we are”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, adding that the number of EU Member States should increase, rather than decrease. By contrast 2019 will be the first year when, with Britain’s departure, the community will become smaller than before.

This process should be promptly reversed, he pointed out. Additionally, Britain represents one seventh of the community’s economic output, meaning that its departure will not favour the EU, he stressed. Hungary continues to urge the acceleration of enlargement, and one way to achieve this is by intensifying the programme of Eastern Partnership. Mr Szijjártó described Moldova as one of the “champions” of the programme with which the EU concluded a visa facilitation agreement.

Introducing some of the core elements of Hungary’s foreign policy, he stressed that the EU is facing major challenges as the migration crisis which remains unresolved to this day has created parallel societies, and has brought about an unprecedented threat of terrorism on the continent. He underlined the Hungarian position that rather than distributing immigrants among the Member States, we must stop illegal immigration and must send back those who are staying on the continent illegally.

In Mr Szijjártó’s words, the struggle ongoing in Ukraine has fundamentally complicated the EU’s relationship with its eastern neighbours. He also said that a world trade war is unfolding, and therefore today cooperation between the eastern and western halves of Europe, based on the foundations of mutual respect, is more important than ever before. If the eastern states are stable, they are able to help prevent the further spread of ideologies giving rise to terrorism, but Europe’s energy security, too, is inconceivable without eastern partnership, he listed.

He highlighted that Moldova and its election system have recently been heavily criticised; at the same time, he mentioned that the well-founded nature of those criticisms is questionable. Hungary has never given unsolicited advice to other countries, and does not tell them what laws they should adopt because it is their decision which the Hungarian people respect, he pointed out. A general cornerstone of the government’s foreign policy is to expect respect, but equally to give respect. If, however, someone asks for help, Hungary is ready to take action as it did when it embraced the EU integration of the countries of the Western Balkans, he continued. Mr Szijjártó pointed out they disapprove of the fact that the EU is delaying the payment to Moldova of the EUR 100 million macro-financial grant.

He said that trade between Hungary and Moldova had increased dynamically: last year the volume of trade increased by 8 per cent to USD 115 million. Moldova is one of the important export target countries of the Hungarian pharmaceutical, meat and leather industries, he listed. The Minister announced that the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade entered into a cooperation agreement with Moldova’s Foreign Ministry.

Tudor Ulianovschi highlighted that Moldova had ratified a free trade agreement and an agreement on visa-free travel with the EU, meaning that for years Moldova has been working on the implementation of the Association Agreement and has been cooperating with the EU. European integration is not an end for Moldova, but a means to make their country a better place, he stressed. Moldova has recently been compelled to undergo a difficult period and to adopt crisis measures, but their goal has always been to create the best possible way of life for their citizens, he stated. He said that economic growth currently stands at 4 per cent, while they are expecting a 5 per cent growth rate next year. He therefore concluded that they are on the right track. Last year they created more than sixty thousand jobs, and also improved the business environment, he observed.

Tudor Ulianovschi thanked Hungary for its support given in the General Assembly of the United Nations: the organisation adopted a decision that foreign forces must withdraw from Moldova fully and unconditionally. “Hungary is once again on the right side of history”, he said. He took the view that they should cooperate more with NATO. The Moldovan minister also said they greatly appreciate the fact that the Visegrád Four (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) have recently treated the promotion of eastern partnership as a priority.

In answer to questions from ambassadors, Mr Szijjártó said it is incomprehensible and unacceptable that in its recently published enlargement schedule the European Commission set 2025 as the first possible accession date for Western Balkans countries. This process should be radically accelerated, he stressed. Also in answer to questions, Mr Ulianovschi said that there is excellent cooperation between Moldova and Ukraine, but they would like normal political and economic relations with Russia as well.