“It is in the interests of all of Europe for North Macedonia and the other countries of the region to become members of the European Union at the earliest opportunity”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó stressed on Monday in Skopje at a joint press conference with North Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani. “Hungary is making a stand for the immediate commencement of accession negotiations between Brussels and Skopje”, he added.

“The decision by the European Union’s General Affairs Council, which postponed the commencement of accession negotiations with North Macedonia, is at odds with Hungarian interests”, Mr. Szijjártó said. “Hungary regards enlargement policy as one of the most important EU guidelines. The enlargement of the European Union is necessary, because this is one of the prerequisites for the community to regain its lost competitiveness”, the politician said. “We are positive that the Western Balkan enlargement of the European Union is a true European interest from both an economic and security perspective”, Mr. Szijjártó stated, adding: “This is why the Government believes that the decision by the General Affairs Council undermines the credibility of enlargement policy”. “In addition, it also bears with it the risk that it will challenge the credibility of governments in the region that are committed to European integration”, he said.

“We live in the neighbourhood of this region, and accordingly we know how important the enlargement of the European Union is, and what the difference is between their being stability in this region and there not being”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, adding that in Budapest’s opinion the best way of maintaining stability is European integration. He pointed out that a “very unfair game” was being played in the background prior to last week’s decision, which took up a huge amount of time. He reminded the press that every country was well aware of the deadlines and there was plenty of time to come to a decision. “In Hungary’s view, it is also unacceptable that we can only expect the next enlargement in 2025; we shouldn’t have to wait that long”, he said.

At the press conference, Mr. Szijjártó emphasised that the Hungarian Government is supporting the steps taken by the North Macedonian Cabinet in the interests of integration. He drew attention to the fact that the solution of issues that arise during the course of integration are being assisted by a Hungarian diplomat, and that 30 Hungarian police officers are helping with border protection along Macedonia’s common border with Greece. “On Tuesday, Hungarian Parliament will be ratifying North Macedonia’s accession to NATO, and there is expected to be no obstacle to Parliament coming to a positive decision”, he stated.

Bujar Osmani thanked Hungary for taking a firm stand in support of North Macedonia’s European integration and the acceleration of EU enlargement together with the other countries of the Visegrád Group (V4). He expressed his hope that the EU body will authorise the commencement of accession negotiations in October. In reply to a question from the press, both politicians agreed that former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s residency in Hungary is a legal issue that does not influence foreign relations. “Hungary fully supports North Macedonia’s European accession, and this will not be changing in future”, Mr. Szijjártó added.