PM Orbán: The Balkans are the ‘next big opportunity’ for the EU

The Balkans are likely to present “the next big opportunity” for the European Union, and the region could become the bloc’s next economic engine, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday, addressing the Conference of Speakers of Parliaments of the Visegrad and Southeast group. Eastern Europe.

The V4 and the Balkan countries could end up building together the most important economic zone in the entire European continent, he said.

“If the Balkan countries have the opportunity, just like the Visegrad countries, they will accelerate in a few years, strengthen their economies and real growth, and economic progress will come from the Balkans to the EU,” he said. he declares. EU membership of the Balkan countries is even more in the EU’s interest than the reverse, not only from a security point of view but also in terms of Western economic interests, he said. he adds.

“If they are unable to channel the vitality and efforts of the Balkans into the EU economy, they will miss a great opportunity,” he said, and encouraged the Balkan countries to present their demands for accession to the EU with “the greatest self-confidence”.

Orbán said that if the predecessors of current Western leaders had not taken the step towards enlargement, the EU would be much weaker today. Because, he added, this additional growth and performance is currently coming from Central Europe.

If the countries of central Europe were not members of the EU today, the standard of living in the west would be much lower than it is, Orbán said. The combined trade between the countries of the Visegrad group and Germany is double that of France-Germany and three times the trade between Italy and Germany, he added. “It is no exaggeration to say that the German economy would collapse without Central Europe,” he said.

Orbán said the way to the EU for the peoples of the Balkans goes through Central Europe. The Balkan countries should not be transformed into a buffer zone but should rather be integrated into the bloc, he added.

No matter how hard the enlargement commissioner works on it, the true integration of the Balkans requires political and strategic decisions which are not taken by the commissioners, nor even the European Commission, but the European Council made up of prime ministers. and presidents of European countries, Orbán said.

“Until they decide to integrate the Balkans, we will be part of an ever-expanding process where we get lost in the details, with regulatory issues at the center rather than strategic issues; and in fact, it’s about saving time, ”he added.

Orbán said Western European heads of state and government currently lack the will for further enlargement, which he added was a “big mistake”. At the same time, Central Europe has supported it continuously and persistently, he noted.

The Prime Minister proposed that the V4 countries and the Balkans jointly develop the most important economic region in Europe as a whole.

“We have a chance to do this, and… the time will come when the Balkan countries will be as crucial to the European economy as the V4 countries already are,” said Orbán.

To this end, these nations should first join the European Union, integrate through the central European region and make themselves indispensable to the German, Italian and French economies, he said.

The V4 countries see the Balkans not only as an economic target but also as a strategic opportunity, providing security and helping to expand Europe’s most dynamic region, Orbán said.

“We want railways, bridges and roads to emerge, to connect our energy supply networks, and to see that the Balkan countries are not only the recipients of foreign investments, but also produce competitive products. and then come to us as investors, ”he said.

Hungarian European Commissioner: Western Balkan countries have their place in the EU

Parliament Speaker László Köver said that over the past three decades, 25 million workers had left the region covering the Baltic States for the Balkans, heading for Western Europe, with another 20 million expected to follow. ‘by 2050. Citing estimates, he said: “In this way, our region has funded the welfare of Western Europe to the tune of EUR 1 trillion”.

“It follows that all countries in the region have a right to be confident in themselves if they are blackmailed by Brussels – as is the case with what the EU calls support or post-pandemic stimulus funds owed to Poland and Hungary, “Köver said.

Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said at the event that the countries of the Western Balkans have their place in the EU. No one needs to be convinced anymore that the accession of the Western Balkans is a social, economic, geographical and historical reality and a political necessity, he added. At the same time, this recognition must be followed by action, he said. The EC, in its current composition, supports the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans and offers real integration to the region, he added.

featured image via Zoltán Máthé / MTI

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