SARAJEVO, June 22 (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called on Thursday for Bosnia and other Balkan countries to join the European Union quickly, saying they could bring new energy and dynamism to the “difficulty” bloc of 27 members.
Orban, a conservative nationalist often at odds with EU policymakers, said the European Union should not insist on membership conditions but rather make its pre-accession funds available to support development and security Balkan countries.
“Whatever they say in Brussels, we are in favor of the rapid accession of the Balkans, that is, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the EU,” Orban said at a press conference during of his first official visit to Bosnia.
“For us Hungarians, the Balkans are not a problem but rather the last reserve of European resources,” Orban said through an interpreter.
Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are at different stages of the EU accession process. Bosnia was granted candidate status last December, mainly because the EU feared that the instability caused by the war in Ukraine would spill over into the long-unsettled Balkans.
However, EU membership will likely take years for all of these countries, as they will need to make major progress towards meeting standards on democracy, rule of law and economic reform to qualify.
Orban, whose government has seen EU development funds withheld due to the alleged erosion of democracy in Hungary, said Budapest opposed sanctions-based policies and that the EU should redirect funds planned for Ukraine to the Balkans.
Orban’s government has long advocated rapid accession of Balkan countries to the EU, saying it would reduce threats to stability, boost Europe’s economic growth and help Serbia end immigration clandestinely to the EU.
Orban also said foreign surveillance was not a long-term solution for post-war Bosnia, where an international peace envoy still exercises executive powers and an EU peace force is deployed in accordance with the terms of the 1995 agreement that ended the ethnic war.
Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Mark Heinrich
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