News archive - Hungarian Presidency: Position on Enlargement

The Hungarian presidency published an article about the position towards enlargement of the EU towards the Western Balkan Countries: "Orbán: friends of enlargement should join forces". It informs also about a meeting “West Balkans – Towards a More Integrated Europe”.

The access of affected countries to the EU is conditional only to their level of preparedness, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said, in the Joint Parliamentary Meeting held on the EU outlooks of West Balkan countries. Speakers in the meeting included President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament László Kövér.

On 13-14 April, the building of the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels hosted a joint meeting, which was participated by MEPs and representatives of national parliaments of EU Member States and West Balkan countries. The meeting “West Balkans – Towards a More Integrated Europe”, was organised jointly by the EP and the Hungarian Parliament; andwas chaired by President of  EP Jerzy Buzek and Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament László Kövér.

Orbán: West Balkan countries can count on Hungary’s support

“Friends of enlargement should join forces,” and launch “the offensive of the new European Union (EU) enlargement round,” which is capable of overcoming the sceptic mood, Hungarian Head of Government Viktor Orbán stated, in his speech, held on 14 April, the second day of the meeting. The Prime Minister said that West Balkan countries can count on Hungary’s support, both during and after the term of the Hungarian Presidency.

According to Mr Orbán, the accession of West Balkan countries is not the extension of EU borders, but rather the inclusion of an enclave, a region already surrounded by EU Member States.

Mr Orbán stressed: the EU is a community of values and the Balkans must observe the joint rules of this community; it must accept, strengthen and convey the shared European values.

Croatia may be the model for the region

Croatia may be the model. The country’s accession may prove that the European perspective is realistic for the West Balkans. The region can be stabilised, and by none other than the EU, the Hungarian head of government pointed out.

Mr Orbán mentioned the “speculation” that would tie the accession of Croatia to Serbia’s receipt of the candidate country status.  In his opinion, this is “an extremely dangerous combination,which is bad for the Croatians and for the Serbs too.” The head of government underlined: accession may depend exclusively on the performance of the given state and no other consideration can play a role.

The Hungarian Presidency insists that the EU should finish the accession negotiations with Croatia as soon as possible, Mr Orbán said, adding that it is a European interest to start meaningful negotiations with the rest of the candidate countries. He also considered it necessary to grant candidate country status to Serbia.

Name debate, internal political stability, Kosovo

Referring to the debate about the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr Orbán said, “This country has candidate country status, yet we cannot begin negotiations: this is absurd.” According to the Hungarian head of government, the EU should rise above this issue and conditions, which could be raised at the end of the negotiations and not be imposed at the beginning of the talks.

The Hungarian Presidency urges the start of negotiations as early as possible with Albania, Mr Orbán said, adding that the postponement of negotiations will only further decrease the chances of establishing internal political stability in that state.

In the case of Kosovo, the maintenance of the European perspective is reality, Mr Orbán said. The head of government underlined: no contractual relationship may be established between Kosovo and the EU, because not every Member State has acknowledged that state.

Mr Orbán believes the biggest challenge was the “seriously troubled”, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and it would only be able to promote stability and resolve its problems through the example of its successful neighbours. “Only this can keep Bosnia and Herzegovina on the European path,” he stressed.

At the end of the debate, responding to a MEP question about granting citizenship to Hungarians living across the border, Mr Orbán said: by this step, Hungary had eliminated a discriminatory practice. Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Slovakia all acknowledge dual citizenship, so “we don’t see why Hungarians should be excluded from this opportunity,” he argued.

Barroso: ambitious reforms are needed

Mr Orbán speech was followed by an address by José Manuel Barroso. The Commission’s President reminded that enlargement has been one of the European Union’s most successful policies. Mr Barroso praised Hungary, which joined the EU in 2004 and currently holds its rotating presidency, for its commitment to enlargement.

The Union cannot be complete without the West Balkans, these countries have “their roots, their present and future in Europe,” Mr Barroso said. He added that the imminent accession of Croatia will be a catalyst for the region, on its path to European integration.

The President cited several challenges in the region including efforts to begin a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the political deadlock in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, and the on-going dispute over the name of Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Mr Barroso pledged political, economic and financial support from the EU, to the countries of the West Balkan; but said they must remain committed and use this commitment to push through reforms.

Buzek: European future for the West Balkans

At the opening ceremony of the meeting on April 13, Jerzy Buzek declared that, “The EP remains strongly committed to the European future of the Western Balkans.” The President reminded that in 2010, the EU abandoned the visa requirement for citizens of Montenegro, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and visa liberalisation for Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina. “once all the conditions are met, the people of Kosovo can count on  our support to also get visa – free travel in the EU,” he added.

Mr Buzek welcomed that Serbia and Croatia has made historic steps towards reconciliation, Montenegro was granted EU candidate country status last year; and Croatia has entered the final stage of accession negotiations. Yet, Mr Buzek warned that political instability remains a major problem in West Balkan countries, while justice reform, crime and corruption, and cooperation with The HagueInternational Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are still major issues to be solved. The EP’s President noted that enlargement fatigue poses a real problem within the EU. “It does remain crucial to convince our citizens of the merit of enlargement,” he said.

Kövér: Integration process must be completed

Co-chairman of the meeting László Kövér, who is also the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, expressed his hopes at the beginning of the session that the large-scale enlargement process that started in 2004, and continued in 2007 would “not come to a halt and our West Balkan friends would soon take advantage of the opportunity offered by European Union membership.” This will complete the integration process, erase the consequences of World War II; and serve as historic justice, he added.


Geographical focus
  • International; Other
  • Western Balkans

Entry created by Elke Dall on April 15, 2011
Modified on April 15, 2011