The European Union should begin accession talks with Albania as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with his Albanian counterpart in Tirana on Friday. Albania plays an important role in guaranteeing the security of the Western Balkan region, the minister told a joint press conference with Olta Xhaçka. Meanwhile, developments in the region have an impact on progress in central Europe and the amount of migration pressure on the continent as a whole, he added. “It is in Hungary’s national security and economic interest that things should go well in the Western Balkans and we are therefore dedicated to the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the region,” he said. He added that it was regrettable that talks had not properly started in the past four years.
Hungary is asking countries “less sensitive to enlargement” and Brussels to start the relevant talks, he said. Hungary is also supporting Albania’s membership in the United Nations Security Council in 2022-23, he added.
Szijjártó said the EU should work closely with the countries of the region in order to avoid being “flooded by illegal migrants again”, adding that migration now also posed health risks to the continent due to the pandemic. The pressure of migration is again on the rise in the Western Balkans, with 13% more illegal migrants arriving at Albania’s borders last year than in the previous year, he added. He said that following the examples of Wizz Air and OTP Bank, another Hungarian company, Gémtech, was carrying out significant investment in Albania, involving 4.6 billion forints (EUR 12.9m) to build a 10 MW solar park. This will boost the country’s internal electricity capacity and reduce its dependence on import energy, he added. Gémtech is getting 2.5 billion forints in state support for the project and further Hungarian companies are preparing water management and information technology investments in Albania, Szijjártó said. He said economic cooperation between the two countries had solid foundations, as proven by the over 100 million euros in trade turnover registered despite the pandemic last year.
Xhaçka expressed thanks to Szijjártó for the 260,000 euros that Hungary contributed to help the recovery of damage caused by an earthquake in November 2019 and for donations of health supplies to support efforts against the pandemic. She welcomed an education cooperation agreement signed earlier in the day which enables twenty Albanian students to attend Hungarian higher education institutions each year between 2021 and 2024.