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Hungarian Minister Calls for Inclusion of Western Balkan States in the EU Instead of Lamentations

Following the meeting of the European Union-Georgia Association Council, Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed questions from journalists at a press conference.
Szijjártó highlighted that those who warn of external influence in the Western Balkans are "drawing suspicion on themselves, possibly being from the moon," since it is entirely natural for great powers to seek influence in countries not part of regional integrations.

"It's evident that not only the Russians are attempting this, but others too. For instance, us, the European Union, we would like to have the most significant influence in the Western Balkans. Let's not hide this fact," Szijjártó stated.

He then pointed out that the European Union is in the best position to achieve this, but it only needs to open its doors to the countries of the region. This move would render the question of influence in the region moot. Szijjártó warned that this opportunity is only available as long as there is high support for membership in the countries in question, which is consistently waning. "The longer we drag out the accession process, the more skepticism grows," he said.

"Therefore, instead of crying, despairing, and being surprised that others want to gain influence, we must get into the game, advance, and let them into the European Union," Szijjártó firmly decreed.

Szijjártó also spoke of the double standards and hypocrisy he perceives on the part of the EU, which he believes will be problematic during Hungary’s rotating presidency. He identified this duplicity as a cause of failure in the EU's enlargement policy, noting that some country leaders "say different things in public than what they do during their decision-making processes without any shame". He suggested that these attitudes could also stem from a fear that "the liberal mainstream won't prevail as much if Balkan common sense enters into European Union decision-making."

However, he expressed optimism about the upcoming European Parliament elections, which could be a "ray of hope" to bring about a shift in attitudes.

"We hope that the election results yield a better outcome for patriotic right-wing parties, gaining more influence in the European Parliament, and then rational objectives, such as the ones we articulate, will stand a greater chance of being realized," he said.

The minister also touched upon the Ukrainian accession process, noting that the next task is to compile the so-called negotiation framework, which requires a unanimous decision, allowing the Hungarian government to assert its perspective, particularly regarding the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia.

"If a state wishes to join the European Union, it must respect European core values, including the rights of national communities. We have a clear expectation here. We believe that Ukraine can claim to respect the rights of the Hungarian national community if it reverts to the situation as of 2015," he conveyed.


On Tuesday, Péter Szijjártó also had a phone conversation with Laziz Kudratov, Uzbekistan's Minister of Investment, Industry and Commerce, who is the co-chair of the Hungarian-Uzbek economic joint committee.

In a Facebook post discussing the call, Szijjártó announced that they had agreed to convene a meeting of the committee in May to discuss joint projects, including the establishment of an industrial park by Hungarian companies within one of Uzbekistan's free economic zones.

On the 50-hectare site, Hungarian companies will implement their investments under favorable conditions, and numerous negotiations, particularly in agriculture and the food industry, are already in a promising phase, he added.

Szijjártó highlighted that Hungarian exports to Uzbekistan have doubled in the past decade and are expected to approach $100 million this year. The initiation of a flight between Tashkent and Budapest, expected in spring according to preliminary plans, will infuse new momentum into the bilateral relationship, according to the minister.

Szijjártó spoke with his Uzbek counterpart between his program in Brussels and his departure for India, as indicated in the post.

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