Szijjarto: Hungary to strive for peace and development in Western Balkans

Hungary will strive to aid the stability, peace and development of the Western Balkans when it takes up the rotating EU presidency from July, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said on Tuesday, adding that speeding up integration was crucial to achieving these ends.

Europe, he said, was in a period of decline and needed fresh impetus. At a joint press conference with Besnik Bislimi, Kosovo’s deputy prime minister, he said the Western Balkans was a potential source of strength for the EU.

If the EU fails to speed up enlargement, the very credibility of enlargement policy and the entire bloc itself could be at stake, Szijjarto said.

Hungary backs all initiatives promoting the peace, development and stability of the region, he said, adding that it was confident in the success of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

He noted the role of Hungarian soldiers in ensuring Kosovo’s stability, currently Hungary’s biggest foreign mission. Hungary has been at the helm of NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo “for a while”, he said.

Also, Hungarian experts in EU affairs have been working alongside the Kosovan government “for years”, he said, also pledging Hungary’s continued cooperation in the future.

Szijjarto welcomed a 6 billion euro EU programme for developing infrastructure and economies in the Western Balkans, and this, he added, would get under way during the Hungarian presidency.

He said Hungary would do “everything to ensure” that funding under the EU growth plan was utilised throughout the Western Balkans, including Kosovo, to the maximum.

Hungary’s government also supports the visa-free entry of Kosovan citizens into the EU, while also seeking closer cooperation on combatting migration. “Migration pressure is still strong and the Western Balkans are still the busiest route,” he said.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said bilateral trade turnover set a record last year, reaching 120 million euros.

Answering questions, the minister said the planned peace conference in Switzerland in connection with the war in Ukraine was a welcome development but no decision has yet been taken regarding Hungary’s participation. A basic condition for success would be for all belligerents to be present at the conference, but this would not be the case, he added.

Szijjarto called recent statements by Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party, as “highly dangerous”, and he described him as a “war fanatic who is putting Europe in danger by bringing up nuclear weapons”.

He said that the June 9 European parliamentary elections would provide a chance to voters to boot out pro-war politicians and “vote for peace”.

Asked whether China may participate in the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant, he said only the Russian general contractor could decide on this, and regarding a possible “Paks 3” project, he said building a nuclear power plant was “a very complicated and long process, so it is enough to focus on one at a time”.

Regarding former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Budapest last week, he said the Hungarian government had had no role in this whatsoever and Ahmadinejad had been invited by a university to give a lecture.

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