V4 meeting: EU expansion supported, US official queried

EU

The annual meeting of Visegrád Four (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia) countries’ foreign affairs ministers concluded in Gödöllő last week, with attendees agreeing on support for European Union expansion. Most touted for potential EU membership were the Western Balkan nations, an expansion which “is in the mutual interests of both the EU and the aspirant countries,” according to Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi; the four nations endorsed the European Commission’s recently-released “Enlargement Package” report on the subject

The V4 states also announced support for Serbia to begin the EU accession process by January 2014 at the latest, pending a new Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo.

Such support will be tested immediately, as an election in Kosovo yesterday hoped by EU nations to help integrate Serbs and Albanians was marked by an open campaign of intimidation by Serb hardliners, thus undermining an EU-brokered pact between the Balkan country and former master Serbia.

Participation of the Serb north is central to an agreement reached in April to integrate the 40,000-50,000 Serbs living there with the rest of Kosovo, which is majority Albanian and declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia still officially rejects Kosovo’s independence but has encouraged the minority Serb community to vote in Sunday’s elections as part of an EU-brokered deal with Pristina to normalize relations.

Outside of balloting stations, voters were reportedly jeered and abused by groups of Serbian nationalists, many of whom had traveled from the home country.

Last week, the V4 also openly supported the course of would-be EU state Montenegro’s accession negotiations, and backed FYR Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina’s recent efforts to EU entry.

“In order to intensify local cooperation and encourage the development of effective regional cooperation among the countries and other stakeholders in the Western Balkan region, the V4 encourages the Western Balkan countries to step up preparations for setting up a regional fund based on the model of the International Visegrad Fund,” Martonyi stated in part in a speech at the event.

“The new fund would pursue grant-creation activities to the benefit of the local civil society by supporting projects within the fields of culture, science and education, and promoting cross-border cooperation and the capacities of civil society organizations.”

Martonyi inquiries about US surveillance of Hungary
In attendance at last week’s meeting of Visegrád Four (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia) nations in Gödöllő was the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.

Nuland formally apologized for the negative effect the recent surveillance scandal had with the US’ allies and took questions from Foreign Minister János Martonyi regarding the affair.

A dialogue on the issue between US and Hungarian officials was begun to design and intensify bilateral cooperation in a manner that pays utmost attention to both security and privacy considerations,” an official statement from the foreign ministry explained.

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