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The most important part of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the European Union address was when she spoke about EU enlargement and European integration, Hungary’s regional development minister said late on Wednesday. Von der Leyen’s assertion that the bloc could expand to more than 30 members in the future is “the clearest statement made in the recent period”, Tibor Navracsics said at a discussion on the future of the EU organised by the European Parliament Liaison Office for Hungary.
The minister, a former European commissioner, welcomed that the EC president had made it clear that enlargement was a “false dilemma”, saying this “gives a very good perspective for integration, as integration is a real success story when it comes to peacemaking”. Former foreign minister Péter Balázs agreed that counting the Western Balkan states and the members of the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme, the bloc could admit up to nine new members by as soon as 2030. Concerning green transition, Balázs said that the process at times hurt the competitiveness of industry, and the room for manoeuvre in the transition had been restricted by the Russia-Ukraine war and the sudden need in some cases to cut off “uncertain Russian energy sources”. Navracsics said that in terms of the EU’s competition with the United States and China, a key question was whether the 27-member bloc would become a “protectionist market” or if unity would be fractured along national interests. Meanwhile, he welcomed von der Leyen’s mention of demographic factors and work and family life balance when it comes to labour market challenges. As regards the upgrade of Hungary’s energy network, Navracsics said it was “regrettable” that the EU was not prepared to provide the resources needed for this even though a switch to renewable energy would require an investment of up to thousands of billions of forints. On the topic of migration, Navracsics and Balázs agreed that because of the varying ideas and national interests among member states, it was unlikely that an agreement would be reached under the current EC.