The European Union should begin accession talks with Albania as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has said in Tirana after talks with his Albanian counterpart Olta Xhacka, who on her part declared her country had fulfilled the 'homework'.
"We have done our homework and we expect the EU to keep its word about holding the First Intergovernmental Conference within the Portuguese Presidency," the Albanian minister told a joint press conference with Szijjártó on Friday.
"Albania will continue with the reforms and the work for the modernization of the country just as it will continue to play a key constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in our region, as it has done so far," said Xhacka.
Albania plays an important role in guaranteeing the security of the Western Balkan region, the Hungarian minister said.
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 percent 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, Gemtech, 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. Gemtech 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.
Xhacka 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.
President praises Albanian-Hungarian traditional very good ties
In a separate meeting with FM Szijjártó President Ilir Meta praised the traditionally very good relations between the two countries and people, emphasizing the importance of increasing economic and trade cooperation and welcoming Hungarian investments in Albania.
President Meta thanked Szijjártó for Hungary's supportive stance on the European integration processes of Albania and the Western Balkans as a whole, as well as for the assistance and support of his country in the framework of V4 and V4-WB6.
The Head of State also expressed his gratitude for Hungary's valuable support in the reconstruction of earthquake-affected areas in November 2019, as well as for assistance in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
DP's Basha eyes new era of cooperation with Hungary
In the meantime, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó was also received by the leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha.
In a statement to the media after the meeting, Basha said that, "I expressed my gratitude to Foreign Minister Szijarto for the support that Hungary gives to Albania on its path towards membership in the European Union."
Basha said that, “unfortunately we have lost 8 years, it has not been able to take any step forward, because the outgoing Prime Minister Edi Rama has put his personal and political interests above the interests of Albanians and has blocked the country's European integration."
"I guaranteed that after April 25 we will have a new era of cooperation with Hungary and other EU member states in order to accelerate Albania's EU membership process starting with the fulfillment of all conditions that will lead to the opening of negotiations," said Basha, a former FM.
He said the membership process starting with the opening of negotiations will also help improve the business climate and the confidence of foreign investors.
"After April 25, we will open negotiations, improve the business climate, bring European investments, of course the Hungarian ones, to Albania for the employment and welfare of Albanians," said Basha.
Hungary has always been a staunch supporter of Albania in its EU accesion path propogating the necessity of this country's membership in the Union as well as its active role in international organizations like the UN. /argumentum.al