“France and Germany can continue to count on Hungary with respect to facilitating the success of the UN program against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in his speech at the conference held in Paris on the French-German coordinative initiative relating to the programme.

Apart from the host foreign ministers from France and Germany, Péter Szijjártó was the only foreign minister attending to conference from an EU member state, in representation of Hungary, in addition to which foreign ministers representing the Western Balkan countries were also present.

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“As an immediate neighbour of the Western Balkans, Hungary is fully aware of the difference between stability and uncertainty. And it also knows how important it is that the countries of the Western Balkans are able to curb dangerous currents and developments, and to all intents and purposes form a line of defence for the European Union”, the Hungarian minister added.

“The threat of terrorism in Europe has never been as high as it is today, and we must adapt to this challenge and must concentrate on restoring the European people’s sense of security. We must keep the security and stability of the Western Balkans on the agenda, since it has a major influence on the security of the whole of Europe”, he said.

“It is our firm belief that the best long-term instrument for maintaining the security and stability of the Western Balkans is to accelerate the Euro-Atlantic integration of the countries represented here. For precisely this reason we welcome the fact that Macedonia is already very close to becoming a member of NATO”, the Minister stated.

“In addition, we are urging the European Union to already begin accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania next summer. We were glad to hear that Bosnia-Hercegovina will soon be submitting its first-year national programme within the framework of its NATO membership action plan. In the name of the Hungarian Government, I congratulate Serbia and Montenegro on opening new chapters in their EU accession negotiations yesterday, and thus moving one step closer to rapid membership”, he added.

Mr. Szijjártó stressed that Hungary is continuing to provide all possible political and practical help to the countries of the Western Balkans in the fight against arms smuggling and towards maintaining security. Hungary has a contingent of 160 soldiers stationed in Bosnia within the framework of the EU’s peacekeeping mission, and 392 in Kosovo (under NATO KFOR command). The latter will be increased by a further 60 military personnel, and Hungary is also applying for the post of commander of the contingent.

Hungary has a delegate EU accession expert with every government that it being represented at the Paris conference. The Hungarian Government is supporting the border protection measures of the Western Balkan countries. Hungary has sent border guards to provide assistance as Macedonia’s southern border, and is also helping in Serbia, not only in the interests of preventing illegal immigration, but also to stop the smuggling of small arms.

Mr. Szijjártó assured the participants of the conference that Hungary will continue to maintain its coordinating role within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), for instance by supporting a Montenegrin demilitarisation programme, a Serbian programme on handling accumulated traditional munitions, and a Macedonian programme on reducing the risk of proliferation of small arms and ammunition.