Hungary called on the European Union to speed up accession talks with the Western Balkans yesterday (29 November), so as to “protect” the bloc from a future influx of migrants.
Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó warned of unspecified security risks if Brussels allows negotiations with the Balkan nations to drag on too long.
Hungary has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the EU’s programme of redistributing migrants across the EU to share the burden of Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II.
Budapest filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice late last year against the mandatory resettlement quotas, while authorities also erected a fence and brought in tough new laws punishing illegal entry.
“The countries of the western Balkans should be strong enough to protect the EU against another wave of migration,” Szijjártó told reporters after a Warsaw meeting with his central European counterparts and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Before it was shut down in March, the so-called Balkan route was taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa on their way to western Europe.
“The quickest route to strengthening these countries is to offer them accession to the EU,” Szijjártó added.
He said the Visegrád Four group of countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – will work to accelerate the negotiations.
The six Balkan nations wishing to join the EU are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYRO Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
However, the bloc has ruled out any further enlargement before 2019, and even that date looks unrealistic.
“We should be enlarging in the upcoming five years. What’s more, we should be enlarging the EU immediately,” protested Szijjártó.
“If the enlargement process is still going to be so slow as it was up until now, this may lead to serious risks both in the security and in the economic dimension.”
Mogherini for her part told reporters that the EU and the Western Balkans had already made “impressive progress”.
Many in the Western Balkans – a region of widespread poverty and turbulence that is home to around 20 million people – see the 28-nation bloc as a beacon of stability and prosperity.
Membership negotiations have already started with Serbia and Montenegro, but are yet to get underway for Albania and Macedonia. Bosnia and Kosovo have been promised the prospect of membership when they are ready.