Hungary feels the process of admitting Serbia and Montenegro into the European Union (EU) is too slow and argues that the inclusion of the two West Balkans countries could be achieved by 2022 rather than 2025 as envisaged by the European Union. “Why do we have to wait seven years more?” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday as he arrived at the Informal Foreign Affairs Council in Sofia.
The Bulgarian presidency of the EU has made the expansion of the Union, a dossier that has been on the backburner for years, one of its priorities. For the moment, only Serbia and Montenegro have begun the negotiations to join the Union.
The European Commission presented its strategy for the Western Balkans last week. Serbia and Montenegro could join the EU by 2025, it feels, noting, however, that this “ambitious” target would require “a strong political will” from the two countries. Progress will need to be made in the areas of rule of law and the economy, but also, where Serbia is concerned, normalization of relations with Kosovo. An additional expansion of the Balkans would be predicated upon the resolution of border problems, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noted.
Thursday represents a first opportunity for the Foreign Ministers to discuss this strategy. For the Hungarian Government, the process is too slow. “I am very disappointed by this strategy because I think the integration process should go much faster,” Szijjarto said. “2025 is really late,” he said, preferring the “more realistic” deadline of 2022. “The United States has a strategy in the Western Balkans, Russia has a strategy. It’s only the European Union that’s moving very slowly,” he added, calling on the EU to open all the negotiation chapters.
Bulgarian Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva referred to an “appropriate” and “comprehensive” Commission strategy.
For his part, French Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the countries of the Western Balkans had a vocation to join the European Union, “but it is also clear that there are conditions, that that those conditions are demanding, and that the path to accession is difficult.”