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J. Joksimović and Szijjártó: Hungary for faster accession of Serbia to the European Union

October 29 2020 | Belgrade

J. Joksimović and Szijjártó: Hungary for faster accession of Serbia to the European Union

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has met today with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó. On the occasion of his first official visit to Belgrade since the formation of the new Government, Szijjártó congratulated Minister Joksimović on her reelection, expressing his belief that Hungary and Serbia will continue to pursue additional improvement of their already well-developed partnership and good neighbourly relations.

Joksimović and Szijjártó have agreed that, even though the coronavirus epidemic and its economic effects have put Serbia and Hungary in a difficult position, the two governments have responded swiftly and decisively to the challenges the virus posed and have maintained good cooperation.

The newly formed Government sees Serbia’s accession to the EU as a strategic goal, which could lead to a fast continuation of the initiated reforms, while Szijjártó emphasised that Hungary has so far been consistent in supporting Serbia’s process of EU accession.

Szijjártó has said that Hungary has supported Serbia both at the political and technical level, as the acceptance of new members in the EU is necessary according to Hungary’s position. 

Joksimović has expressed her gratitude for the exceptional support and assistance Minister Szijjártó himself and Hungary have been providing to Serbia in the EU accession process.

She has informed him of the main courses of action the new Government intends to take, particularly of plans for the realisation of activities regarding the acceleration of the European integration process.

“In addition to fighting against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s health and our healthcare system, faster reforms in the area of the rule of law and economic empowerment are the actions citizens expect from us, and on which we will work in a responsible and dedicated manner, in cooperation with our European partners”, stated Joksimović.

As the National IPA Coordinator, Minister Joksimović has underlined the extreme importance of the financial support the EU has so far provided to Serbia, primarily from IPA funds, emphasising the great significance of the recently presented Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

According to her, in that way, the European Commission has offered credible and very concrete proof that the Western Balkans is an area of strategic importance for the EU, for which Serbia is grateful to all EU member states. 

“In addition to the need to further implement economic reforms, which the European Commission positively assessed in its 2020 Report on Serbia, we will improve economic cooperation in the region through the realisation of the ‘Mini Schengen’ initiative aimed at achieving freer movement of people, goods, services and capital in the Western Balkans”, stressed Joksimović.

Minister Szijjártó has emphasised that foreign policy developments in the past several months in the area of EU accession give cause for optimism. 

The renewal of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Olivér Várhelyi’s visit to the Western Balkans and the Economic and Investment Package for the region provide an opportunity for the European integration process to gain new impetus, while the package provides significant resources for infrastructural connectivity of the region and economic development.

Regional cooperation has always been a priority for the Serbian Government, which is evidenced by the ‘Mini Schengen’ initiative. This has also been confirmed by the fact that the Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement has set an objective that at least one country joins the EU during his term. 

In that spirit, Belgrade is a good example in the development of regional relations, which could contribute to a better integration of the region into the European economy.

“Hungary supports Serbia’s EU accession process both at the political and professional level. At all forums, be they in Brussels, Budapest or Belgrade, representatives of the Hungarian Government emphasise that Serbia must join the EU as soon as possible. Hungarian experts help the Serbian administration to swiftly and more efficiently take over the EU acquis”, said Szijjártó.

He has added that Hungary has consistently supported the need to open new negotiation chapters, because only upon their opening can true work begin. 

“There are several negotiation chapters the Serbian Government has prepared, but they have not been opened”, said Szijjártó, adding that the opening of chapters is a precondition for the beginning of necessary reforms.

“So, we do not see the point in posing political obstacles on that path”, noted Szijjártó.

Minister Joksimović has stressed that the new Government of Serbia will actively continue the reform process, particularly in the area of the rule of law, following to a good extent the recommendations from the European Commission’s report based on the new negotiation methodology, which Serbia accepted and which places greater focus on political criteria and political steering. 

It is expected that the Intergovernmental Conference should be held by the end of the year, where Serbia would present its results and strategy for EU accession for the upcoming year.

The interlocutors have noted that the relations between the two countries are not intensive solely in the area of EU accession, stating that Serbia appropriately guarantees the rights of the Hungarian national minority, which according to both of them, is in the common interest. 

“A strong community of the Hungarian national minority contributes to a stronger Serbia, which deepens and strengthens connections between the two countries”, agreed Szijjártó and Joksimović, also agreeing on the fact that never in the history of Hungary and Serbia have they had such close relations.

The coronavirus epidemic has tested the global international system, but Hungary and Serbia have given an excellent example of efficient cooperation, assessed Joksimović and Szijjártó, adding that they would like to continue developing relations between the two countries on these grounds, because, in addition to political matters, there are many other areas where Serbia and Hungary can achieve cooperation.

An integral part of that cooperation is the development of economic relations, and Serbia is already well-connected with the European and Hungarian economies.

Last year, the bilateral trading of goods recorded an annual increase of 2.9% compared to the previous year, thus surpassing EUR 2.6 billion.

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, in the first seven months of 2020, the bilateral trading of goods has dropped by only 4.1%, which is encouraging for the future.

Source: Tanjug