There is a danger that the enlargement of the Union will be over-shadowed, by the events unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. However, the Hungarian Presidency will do its utmost to keep the process of enlargement on target, said János Hóvári, Deputy State Secretary for Global Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 22 March 2011 at a conference held in the Central European University (CEU).
Closing accession negotiations with Croatia is a priority aim of the Hungarian Presidency, János Hóvári confirmed at a conference organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and the CEU Centre for EU Enlargement Studies (CENS). Agreement has already been reached on twenty-eight negotiation chapters, and if everything goes to plan, out of the eight chapters left, the ones on agriculture and regional policy, can be closed in April; and another one on competition and the judicial system in June.
Enlargement must be kept on the agenda
The Deputy State Secretary underlined that the Hungarian Presidency will do its utmost, to ensure that negotiations will end, in this half of the year. Following the Croatian example, the facilitation of accession negotiations with further candidate countries, should start as soon as possible. The integration of the countries of the West Balkans and EU enlargement in the Balkans must be kept on the agenda, of the European Union, Mr Hóvári said.
There is a real danger that the issues of the Balkans will be pushed to the background by the events in North Africa and the Middle East, the Deputy State Secretary reminded. He added that both Hungary and the next upcoming Polish Presidency, considers the enlargement process, including the question of the Balkans, an important issue; and the two countries will do their utmost to keep the policy of the Union in the right direction.
Heads of state meetings
In the near future, head of state level discussions will be held between Hungary and the states of the West Balkans. In April, Pál Schmitt will meet the presidents of the affected countries, then in May, foreign ministers from EU Member States and West Balkan countries, will hold a meeting.
CENS Director and former Foreign Minister, Péter Balázs, stated that the European Union “Must find its XXL size clothes,” that is, in a community of twenty-seven members, the enlargement processes must also be adapted to the bigger size. State building, must be completed in the West Balkan area, regional and good neighbour relations, must be developed; and the European transformation must be continued, Mr Balázs said.
Hungarians and Poles can do a lot
Consultants attending the conference, representing the foreign ministries of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, acknowledged the work of the Hungarian EU Presidency; and its support for the enlargement. Speakers agreed that this year, Hungary and Poland can do a lot to ensure that West Balkan countries carry on the process of integration, which is already in progress; and that the region is not forgotten in the European Union.