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During its European Union presidency starting on July 1, Hungary will open new chapters in accession negotiations with Serbia and hold inter-governmental talks with all five Western Balkans membership candidates as part of its bid to speed up EU enlargement in the region, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said in Paris. Speaking at a conference of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Péter Szijjártó said Hungary also planned to close at least seven chapters with Montenegro, open the first ones with Albania and adopt the negotiation framework with Bosnia-Herzegovina, a first step to opening the first chapter of talks. Hungary will also strive to start “substantive talks with the new, strongly pro-integration government of North Macedonia,” he added. The integration of those countries “is in the economic as well as political and security interest of Hungary”, he said. Hungarian investments in the region have reached 2.5 billion euros and trade has grown four-fold since 2010, to over 7 billion euros, he said. Hungary is also aiding the process by sending experts and by training officials to navigate “the complicated accession process”, he said. Szijjártó said central Europe and the Western Balkans could be a “bridge” between East and West, much needed “for a return to East-West cooperation based on mutual respect, which could show the way out of the current turbulent era riddled with crises.” Hungary is ready to take on that role and to support Western Balkans states in acting similarly, he added.