Hungary says EU must enlarge in the Western Balkans: Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The government of Hungary is concerned about protecting the Christian and common European values that have shaped this continent through good times and dark periods. In time, Islamic Ottoman armies, nationalism, religious sectarianism, and communism would all pull at the soul of Europe. However, in more recent times, for the nations of the Balkans, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe the Iron Curtain of communism – even if this ideology had different thought patterns in Albanian and Yugoslavia – remains vivid in the imagination.
Hungary – with its rich independent historical legacy and dual-angle via the Austro-Hungarian Empire – seeks to shape the European Union (EU) based on the richness of Europe and the legacy of Christianity throughout Visegrad nations. The Visegrad Group consists of Czechia (Czech Republic), Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.
Hence, while France and Germany seek to preserve their stranglehold on mechanisms within the EU, the nation of Hungary and fellow Visegrad Group nations pull a counter-balance because these nations share similar themes. Also, the nation of Austria shares similar goals under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in areas concerning culture, immigration, and greater economic integration.
Hungary is worried about the disenchantment that is growing in the Western Balkans towards the EU. This concerns Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. After all, EU membership would boost regional stability, economic activity, and other important areas. However, the speed of the EU in opening up to these nations is cumbersome and slow.
The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, is worried about the EU’s neglect of the Western Balkans. On the About Hungary website, it reports, “The foreign minister has said that unless the European Union makes timely steps in terms of its enlargement, it could lose the Western Balkans, similarly to the United Kingdom.”
Szijjártó equally warns that “competition” to integrate this region outside of the EU already exists. It is known that the Russian Federation and Serbia have close ties, President Erdogan in Turkey seeks to play the “Ottoman” and “Muslim card” in parts of the Western Balkans, China seeks to encroach more, and other forces including Gulf petrodollars that seeks to supplant indigenous Islam by a more conservative version of this faith (notably applies to Albania, Bosnia, and North Macedonia). Meanwhile, ethnic and religious tensions still exist throughout the Balkans. Therefore, the EU should be a force of good and benefitting from expansion concerning the “common European home.”
Szijjártó warns that the “transatlantic direction must not be taken for granted.”
He continues, “The EU must be enlarged with new members and with economic and trade cooperation with those states coupled with market opportunities.”
Hungary wants to see the integration of Serbia and Montenegro in the immediate future. Similarly, Hungary wants serious talks to be held with Albania and North Macedonia.
Szijjártó says, “Failing to do so, the EU will not only give up a realistic success but may risk stability and security in its neighbourhood instead of peace, calm, and economic opportunities.”
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