Hungarian government criticizes EU for blocking enlargement

It is “shameful” that European enlargement has stalled lately, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Wednesday in Podgorica. European security and economic competitiveness would improve with the integration of the Western Balkans, he added.

In a joint press conference with his Montenegrin counterpart Ranko Krivokapic, Szijjártó said the EU faces serious economic and security challenges, noting the war in Ukraine and sanctions that have driven up inflation, interest rates interest rates and energy and commodity prices.

In the current situation,

the EU should do everything in its power to reduce security risks and maintain European economic competitiveness,

he said.

NATO, he said, has already understood the security considerations and approved the membership of three countries from the region. Now was the time for the EU to take the region with rapidly growing economies seriously, he added.

Citing the case of Montenegro, Szijjártó noted that all thirty negotiating chapters had been opened, but not a single one had been concluded in the past five years. As a NATO member that uses the euro and with a population of around 0.12% of the bloc’s population, admitting Montenegro “would be easy and risk-free”, he said.

Hungary has done everything to bring Montenegro closer to the EU,

he said, noting the large investments by Hungarian companies and the associated 35 million euro credit line from Eximbank.

Meanwhile, the minister said East-West transport corridors were clouded by uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine, making North-South trade routes such as the Budapest-Belgrade railway line increasingly important . It would be strategically important for Hungary to extend the railway line from Belgrade to Bar, the largest port in Montenegro. The Hungarian government is ready to participate in the project, he said, adding that related negotiations were ongoing.

Szijjártó is due to meet with Finance Minister Aleksandar Damjanovic, Deputy Prime Minister for Regional Development Ervin Ibrahimovic and Minister for Economic Development and Tourism Goran Durovic.

Read alsoHungarian Foreign Minister: The EU needs the Western Balkans more than the other way around

Laura T. Thrasher