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29 Aug, 2023 19:47

EU in ‘very bad shape’ – Hungary

The Ukraine conflict is weakening the bloc, Hungarian FM Szijjarto has said
EU in ‘very bad shape’ – Hungary

The European Union has grown progressively weaker due to the response of Brussels to the Ukraine crisis, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday. 

Speaking at the Bled Strategy Forum in Slovenia, Szijjarto argued that the EU had diminished so much, it now needed former Yugoslav states more than they needed to join the bloc.

The EU is “unfortunately, in very bad shape,” Szijjarto admitted, describing the situation as “worse than at any time in the past, in terms of security, economy and energy supply.”

The Hungarian official blamed this on “a series of failed measures” in response to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Brussels, Szijjarto noted, chose to supply Kiev with weapons and therefore has not been able to make peace on the continent for the past 18 months.

Hungary has been consistently critical of the EU approach to the Ukraine conflict, refusing to participate in the program to train Ukrainian troops and banning the transit of military supplies through its territory. Budapest has also repeatedly called for peace talks with Moscow. 

Sanctions against Russia have “killed European competitiveness,” shrinking the EU’s share of global GDP to just 17% – five points down from where it was in 2010 – while China’s share has doubled from 9% to 18%. Szijjarto argued that the EU policy of “de-risking” its relationship with China by cutting back on economic ties will only make this worse.

Szijjarto also criticized the “ideological” handling of energy security, noting that energy prices in the EU have skyrocketed as a result of sanctions against Russia. Germany in particular has seen a drastic drop in industrial production after the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged in September 2022.

Because the EU is in such bad shape, it “needs the Western Balkans more than the Western Balkans would need European membership,” Szijjarto said during the question-and-answer period, using the Brussels-preferred term for the former Yugoslav states and Albania.

Opening the event in Bled on Monday, European Council President Charles Michel noted that the EU would be ready to admit new members by 2030, if the applicants managed to satisfy a long list of demands from Brussels related to “democracy,” rule of law and “diversity.” 

Albania, Serbia, and several others – who have been waiting for over a decade – expressed their displeasure at the new timeline, as well as their concern that Ukraine might cut in due to current political considerations.