At the 11th Conference of the Speakers of Parliament of Southeast European Countries held in the Parliament Building, he highlighted that in recent years in the European Union, the economies of the more recently admitted countries had been the main source of dynamic growth, energy and strength.
He said Europe is looking at the Western Balkans region at a difficult time.
Regarding the enlargement process, there is more reason to criticise than to speak in words of praise about the EU’s policy, he stated.
He added that the EU itself was unable to truly decide how to look upon the Southeast European region; whether it should see it as an inconvenient task, a difficulty and a problem or as an opportunity.
“We who joined later have always looked upon enlargement as an opportunity,” Mr Orbán stressed.
He observed that there were some who viewed enlargement in a negative context, and inferred the EU’s problems from the accession of the countries of the post-Soviet region.
The Prime Minister said now, from within the EU, the Visegrád Four, the Central Europeans look upon the enlargement of the EU in the direction of the Balkans as a source of energy and strength, and as an opportunity.
There is “a geopolitical hole” between Greece and Hungary as regards EU membership. However, as nature abhors a vacuum, unless we integrate this region, others will have plans with it, he said.
Mr Orbán added that the Hungarian-Serbian border had become a meeting point of the Chinese free trade zone and the common market of the European Union, and while the Serbian-Chinese free trade agreement would evidently not be compatible with European Union membership, the Serbs do well to have multiple irons in the fire because if not otherwise, this is a way to urge Europe to finally make up its mind.
The Prime Minister highlighted that the Russo-Ukrainian war has “confused everything” because “it unsettles the European Union itself” which previously aimed for a pan-European security architecture and a combination of cheap Russian energy and cutting-edge European technology. This security architecture has collapsed, Mr Orbán said, adding that while the sanctions have effectively frustrated this model, today it is unclear in which system of treaties we want to guarantee Europe’s security.
He said another problem is the narrative – which in his view is shared by a number of large European countries – that prior to enlargement, thorough internal reforms must be implemented in the EU.
“If you have ever seen an internal EU reform, we have every reason to say this means that there will be no enlargement,” he said, pointing out that these reforms require the amendment of the Treaties and the holding of referenda in some countries.
He said we must convince European decision-makers that there is no need for the implementation of internal reforms to admit to the EU at least the countries which are most prepared for membership.
He said the issue of enlargement is also connected to the debate concerning the future of the EU.
In his view, some of the Member States, including Hungary, want to take back some aspects of their sovereignty as they believe that “they have been taken away from them in contravention of the Treaties of the EU, in a stealthy manner in the past decade.” These countries want to move powers back from Brussels to the Member States, and also want to put an end to instruments such as the rule of law and conditionality procedures which the Brussels bureaucracy resorts to in the interest of ever further centralisation, he explained.
According to Mr Orbán, another group of Member States wants to increase centralisation and to take powers away from the Member States. He added that the most controversial example of this endeavour is the German proposal which seeks to replace unanimous decision-making with a majority procedure.
In continuation, he said these centralisation endeavours are today making headway faster than ever before. What we once saw in communism is now repeating in Brussels: the law is becoming a mere servant of politics, he pointed out.
He said in Brussels there is no rule of law, it is only a requirement vis-à-vis the Member States, “they don’t observe these rules, they step over their own rules.”
He observed that at present the rule of law complaint against Hungary that constitutes the basis for not giving Hungary the funds it is entitled to is that one of its judicial bodies has an office, the ground space of which is smaller than would be required. Even the blind can see that this is a simple political issue, not a legal one, he stated.
Mr Orbán suggested real integration so that the candidate countries may share the membership advantages as soon as possible, even before formally joining the EU.
The Prime Minister said, among others, we could open the market, could start the free flow of goods, services and workers, access could be provided to the Single Euro Payments Area, efforts could be made to facilitate transportation by road, and the energy markets could also be integrated.
The Prime Minister also supported the idea that between 2024 and 2027 the EU should give these countries two billion euros in non-repayable grants and four billion euros in preferential loans in the interest of boosting their growth.
He said there is a debate on how to raise the necessary funds because these are not included in the budget. However, Hungary would be happy to pay in more and to take on more of a financial burden in the interest of the integration of the Western Balkans countries, but not for Ukraine.
He stated that Hungary will continue to support the integration of the Southeast European region.