“The European Union must open the negotiation chapters with Albania in June; it would be unacceptable to Hungary were this not to happen”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Budapest on Friday.

At a joint press conference following a meeting with Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and acting Minister for European Affairs Gent Cakaj, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted: “The Western Balkan region is extremely significant to Hungarian foreign policy in view of the fact that the region’s peace and stability has a direct effect on the security of Central Europe”. “Several disquieting reports have arrived recently concerning the fact that thousands of immigrants in Bosnia-Hercegovina are preparing to set out for Europe via Croatia”, he stated.

“The Hungarian Government knows what a challenge it is for Western Balkan law enforcement bodies that foreign fighters previously involved with the Islamic State terrorist organisation are continuously attempting to return to the EU, and there is also information regarding continuous attempts to organise migrant caravans from Greece and Turkey”, Mr. Szijjártó emphasised. According to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, for this reason it is now particularly important for there to be stability in the Western Balkans, because if tensions arise it would provide terrorists and terrorist organisations with another opportunity to exploit the waves of migration and enter the territory of the European Union. “For this reason, Hungary is an unconditional supporter of European Union enlargement in the Western Balkans and of Albania’s EU integration”, he added.

According to Mr. Szijjártó, following the European Parliament (EP) elections, the session of the General Affairs Council on 18 June must decide on the commencement of accession negotiations with Albania. “We would regard it as unacceptable, were this not to occur”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said, calling it outrageous that in response to “French pressure” the European Commission will only be making its enlargement package public following the EP elections. In the Minister’s view it is incomprehensible why this could not have taken place before the elections.

He said it is unacceptable that some people are already talking about the fact that a decision on the commencement of negotiations may not occur at the 18 June session. “If 21 days is not sufficient for the European bureaucrats to draw up their proposal, then it would be better for them to not stand in line for their pay checks anymore”, he noted. “In the interests of the success of the Albanian accession process, Hungary is delegating two diplomats to assist the Albanian Cabinet”, he added. Mr. Szijjártó expressed his firm belief that the EU will only be strong and successful if it not only talks about enlargement, but actually implements it.

With relation to bilateral relations, the Minister highlighted: “New dimensions are opening before Hungarian-Albanian business cooperation in view of the fact that OTP has become an important stakeholder on the Albanian banking market, which could encourage further investments on the part of Hungarian enterprises”. He also drew attention to education and cultural relations, within the framework of which Hungary is providing scholarships to enable twenty Albanian students to attend Hungarian universities each year, and will be organising cultural weeks in Albania this winter.

Gent Cakaj told reporters: “Albania is prepared to afford the opportunity for further Hungarian investments. With relation to his country’s European integration, the Minister stressed that Albania is fulfilling the related accession requirements, which the Council of Europe also acknowledges.

In reply to a question, Mr. Szijjártó said: “It must be recognised that countries with a pro-enlargement standpoint are in the minority in Europe, because the large Western countries are sceptical”. Prior to the press conference, the two ministers concluded a cooperation agreement on mutual assistance within the fields of waste management, water management, climate policy, renewable energy policy and energy efficiency development projects. They also signed a memorandum of understanding on enabling the family members of diplomats and consuls to receive work permits.