“The European Union would be poorer and less competitive if it hadn’t taken on the countries of Central Europe”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó explained on Wednesday in Trieste, where he attended a meeting of foreign ministers from the countries of the Central European Initiative (CEI).

In a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI, the Minister explained that it’s more than enough to simply take a look at the economic growth figures for the past quarter. “Four out of the five most rapidly growing economies in the EU are from Central Europe. Our performance adds significantly to that of the European Union, which would be weaker had it not taken on these countries”, pointed out Mr. Szijjártó, according to whom the accession of the Western Balkan countries would also add to the EU’s strength.

“If the EU wants to be more competitive and successful, then it needs to increase the number of member states, not decrease it. This has already been a success once (…) and accordingly it will also be a success when it is enlarged with the countries of the Western Balkans”, the Minister underlined. “It is in Hungary’s interests for the European Union to be stronger and more competitive than it currently is, as this is important to it from an economic and investment perspective”, Mr. Szijjártó emphasised.

“It is in Hungary’s interests for enlargement policy to continue and for the European Union to finally expand in the direction of the Western Balkan region; this is what our national economic and national security interests both dictate”, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade pointed out.

The politician occupied the position according to which the best way to overcome the Western Balkan tensions and make the region more secure is to offer the path of European integration to the Western Balkan countries.

“This would enable economic relations to also be much tighter and more effective”, he added. “In addition, the danger of migration remains a realistic one, unfortunately”, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted.

“In view of the state of affairs in Turkey and in the southern and south-eastern vicinity of the EU, there are over 30 million people living in a manner that could easily result in them making the decision to set out for Europe”, Hungary’s chief diplomat pointed out.

“This is why it is important for us to also be protected from a southern and south-eastern direction, and if we are able to integrate the Western Balkan region it will also provide Hungary with a higher level of protection with relation to stopping migration processes”, Mr. Szijjártó added. “We regard the Western European argument that calls into question the contribution of the countries of Central Europe to the performance of the European Union to be false, disrespectful and saddening”, he stated.

On the sidelines of the meeting of CEI foreign ministers, Mr. Szijjártó held separate bilateral talks with Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Bosnia-Hercegovina’s Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak, President of Trieste’s region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia Massimiliano Fedriga, and President of Trieste’s port authority Zeno D'Agostino.