The Visegrad Group is the most successful alliance in the European Union, Zsolt Nemeth, the head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in Budapest on Wednesday.
The influence of the central European region is growing, Nemeth said, opening a two-day meeting of the foreign affairs committees of the V4 countries. This is why Hungary’s parliament has decided that six of its committees should discuss various issues at the Visegrad level, he added. The meeting is also being attended by representatives from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia to discuss the situation in the western Balkans region.
Nemeth said EU enlargement has been one of the bloc’s most successful policies in recent years. The EU integration of the western Balkans is in the economic and security interests of the countries in question as well as the whole of Europe, he added. He said the V4 expects that Montenegro and Serbia would be able to move closer to EU membership over the course of next year and expressed hope that the other western Balkan countries would make progress, too.
State secretary for European affairs Szablocs Takacs said Hungary is a “natural ally” of the western Balkans region, which he said was a part of Europe not just geographically but culturally as well.
Maciej Popowski, the European Commission’s deputy director-general for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said the EU was committed to the integration of the western Balkans region. He added, however, that EU enlargement could only be successful if it is supported by not only the member states but the European people as well.
Levente Benko, deputy state secretary for security policy at the foreign ministry, said the V4 considered the western Balkans a “southern extension” of central Europe that is wholly surrounded by the EU.
The Visegrad Group supports European Union enlargement with the integration of the Western Balkan states, as well as efforts to strengthen the bloc’s common foreign and security policy, Zsolt Nemeth confirmed at a press conference on Thursday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, has said the first states of the region will join the bloc in 2025, Nemeth noted. Hopefully, as many countries as possible will have fulfilled the preconditions of accession by then, he said. The V4 group is committed to the reunification of Europe, because that process has brought about their own accession to the EU and NATO, Nemeth said. Enlargement encompassing the Western Balkans also provides economic and security policy opportunities for the EU, and especially for central Europe, he said.
Tomasz Grodzki, head of the Polish committee, praised the consensus and efficacy of V4 cooperation on the issues discussed at the meeting. The accession process for the Western Balkan countries may be slow and difficult but it will be doubtless successful, he said.