“It is good news that EU accession negotiations can begin with North Macedonia and Albania; Hungary has played a major role in this success”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a press conference in Budapest on Tuesday. The Minister reported on a session of the European Union’s General Affairs Council, which was held within the framework of a video conference.

“Amidst the current difficult conditions, it is good news from Brussels that there is agreement among the member states with respect to the fact that accession negotiations can commence with North Macedonia and Albania”, he explained. “This is a huge success from a Hungarian perspective, we can be proud of the fact that we Hungarians have played a major role in this success”, he said, adding that: “Hungary will continue to provide all possible assistance towards the integration aspirations of the Western Balkan countries”.

“Hungary has been actively supporting the EU’s enlargement policy for a long time, and is providing real and concrete assistance to the Western Balkan countries in the interest of the success of their integration aspirations”, Mr. Szijjártó reminded the press. “This news is also a Hungarian success because the EU Commissioner for Enlargement is Hungarian; he put forward the new enlargement method that was politically adopted by the Council today, and this will be significantly accelerating the accession negotiations because it will allow the opening of groups of negotiation chapters rather than single ones”, he explained.

“Hungary has for a long time believed that North Macedonia and Albania are fully ready for the commencement of accession negotiations, and there are no political or legal barriers to this”, he highlighted. “In addition, this is also a true European interest because the EU finally needs some kind of success story, particularly amidst the current conditions, when Great Britain has left the EU, we are facing major migration pressure from the south, and everyone’s energies are being tied down by the fight against the coronavirus epidemic”, he pointed out.

“There are those who complain that other countries are acquiring an increasing level of influence in the Western Balkans. It is difficult to compete with these if we don’t even enter the competition”, he said, adding: “Europe must show the Western Balkan countries the path that it is worth embarking on, and that path is European integration”.

“Western Balkan enlargement is in the EU’s economic interests in view of the fact that it will enable the better exploitation of existing relations. It is also in the EU’s security interests, because one of the main migration routes passes through the region, and it is also in its political interests, because Brexit was the first time in the history of the EU that the number of member states has decreased”, he explained.

The Minister also spoke about the fact that in addition, accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro should not be allowed to decelerate, and new negotiation chapters must also be opened with these countries.

In response to a question, Mr. Szijjártó said the situation brought about by the coronavirus not only represents a healthcare risk, but also poses major economic challenges for the world, including for the Hungarian economy. “This is why the government has introduced economic measures and why the Foreign Ministry is preparing draft legislation that exploits the fact that the EU is now allowing less strict regulations concerning the funding of enterprises, and accordingly in the interests of protecting jobs we are able to provide subsidies aimed at promoting investments, with which we will be able to protect the workplaces that have been created in recent years”, he explained.

“It is still worth moving forward and providing enterprises with subsidies that promote further investment. Governments that are able to react most flexibly and most rapidly could also acquire a major advantage with relation to the period following the virus epidemic”, the Minister said.

In reply to a question concerning the disputes relating to the extension of the state of emergency, Mr. Szijjártó said the current situation represents a major challenge, and lives depended on the speed of the decisions made last week. “This will continue to be the case in future, and for this reason it is important that the government is able to introduce measures as rapidly as possible, and it will be using its mandate to successfully protect the people of Hungary”, he declared.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)