On behalf of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén represented Hungary at the jubilee summit of the Central European Initiative (CEI) – which is 30 years old this year – held in Rome.

The Central European Initiative is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In its initial form, this regional cooperation was conceived in Budapest on 11 November 1989 when Hungary, Italy, Austria and Yugoslavia signed the Quadragonale agreement. In the past three decades, thanks to its ability to renew itself, the initiative has continued its activities related to European integration and the incentivisation of sustainable development in the region.

As a founder member, Hungary is a committed and active member of the Central European Initiative or CEI, it delegated the organisation’s incumbent Alternate Secretary General, and has significantly increased its contribution to the CEI Cooperation Fund.

At the summit, Mr Semjén outlined the Hungarian position on the issue of Central European integration.

Improving connections between the Member States is crucial from the viewpoint of the region’s development. Connecting together these historically and functionally coherent regions promotes not only economic integration, but also trade cooperation, business development and employment, the Deputy Prime Minister stated.

Hungary is committed to developing transport connections and other infrastructure elements within the Central European region, with a view to reinforcing North-South corridors, Mr Semjén added.

As regards energy supply, Hungary’s top priority is to guarantee the energy supply of consumers in the long run from reliable sources and at affordable prices. We are open to all viable solutions which are able to genuinely diversify the sources and / or transit routes of our gas supply at competitive prices, the Deputy Prime Minister said outlining the Hungarian position.

In harmony with CEI’s relevant medium-term priorities, Hungary is playing an important role in promoting the integration of gas markets within Central Europe, and we have also built the necessary gas pipeline interconnectors. These developments contribute to the diversification of sources and routes as well as to the implementation of a common Central and Southeast European energy market, Mr Semjén stressed.

“We are convinced that CEI is able to contribute to the EU’s enlargement. Hungary continues to regard this issue as one of the EU’s most important strategic objectives. In this regard, I believe that Olivér Várhelyi – new commissioner for European neighbourhood and enlargement policy – has been given one of the most important portfolios from the respect of the future of the European Union,” the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister stressed.

We have high expectations in connection with the new European Commission, Mr Semjén stated. The previous commission designated a flawed strategic direction, he continued, stressing that Hungary believes it is necessary to accelerate accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro. In harmony with the Commission’s February 2018 Western Balkans strategy, we must develop new means and methods, and must make available the funds necessary for strengthening a genuine integration process for the Western Balkans, he added.

Hungary does not reject the idea of reviewing the enlargement process. This, however, cannot slow down the process itself, and cannot hinder the development of the countries concerned, the Hungarian politician pointed out.

In the context of illegal migration, Mr Semjén stressed that our primary goal is to prevent and to foil all movement of this nature, rather than merely “managing” or reducing it. We fully support efforts which seek to enhance cooperation with third parties and which are in line with the concept that the migration crisis must be resolved at its roots, not at the European borders, he continued.

Therefore, Hungary rejects solutions which encourage migration flows, including any automatic and systemic relocation mechanisms, the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out. “Help must be taken where it is needed, instead of bringing problems here. We regard both reliable border controls and the improved efficiency of repatriation as a pre-condition of preserving our Schengen achievements,” the Christian democratic politician said in confirmation of the Hungarian government’s position.

He added that as a neighbouring country Hungary has supported the Eastern Partnership ever since its formation in 2009. The Hungarian government recommends the provision of wider support for the most committed partner countries in order to provide them with a clearer integration prospect.

However, this support is only extended as long as the beneficiary countries comply with their international undertakings and observe the obligations they have undertaken in the interest of furthering their European integration aspirations, the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out.

Hungary continues to firmly support effective regional cooperation in the wider Central European region. Following from this commitment, we will remain an active and open member of CEI, Mr Semjén said in conclusion, relaying Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s words of gratitude to Italian Prime Minister Conte for the organisation of the summit. He also expressed his best wishes with the upcoming Montenegro presidency.