From Belgium to Hungary: New opportunities for further enlargement process acceleration

Belgium assumed the presidency of the Council in a very complex and delicate geopolitical moment. With the continuation of unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression on Ukraine and intensifying military activities in Gaza, the EU faced two humanitarian crises and security risks in parallel. These external challenges have significantly influenced the EU’s geopolitical landscape, thereby increasing the complexity of adopting the new EU Strategic Agenda for 2024-2029. Simultaneously, the enlargement process has proceeded with the Council, together with the European Parliament, actively working on the operationalisation of the Commission’s New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans. On the other hand, only two months after opening accession talks, Bosnia and Herzegovina is challenged with internal disturbances due to inflammatory statements by the Republika Srpska leader, while the newest candidate country, Georgia, has been experiencing backsliding in reforms that led to a series of violent demonstrations. All these factors combined made the Belgian Presidency exceptionally challenging. Consequently, key questions emerge: How did Belgium manage to maintain focus on the EU’s internal priorities while leading the Union through the external challenges it has been facing? How did Belgium’s efforts contribute to enhancing the credibility of the enlargement policy and restoring its transformative effects? What are the key benefits for the Western Balkan partners that came as a result of the Belgian presidency?

Besides highlighting the key achievements of the Belgian Council Presidency, this panel aims to elucidate Hungary’s strategy for directing the EU in the next six months. With the Presidency moving to Central and Eastern Europe and a country that shares borders with both the Western Balkans and Ukraine, new opportunities for accelerating the enlargement process are emerging. As a former socialist country that passed through a similar transformative process, Hungary is in a position to understand the difficulties that both new and old candidate countries are facing on their path towards the EU. On the other hand, despite Hungary’s support for enlargement, the dynamism of its efforts in the new EU institutional cycle could be significantly shaped by the results of the European Parliament elections and the new European Commission that will emerge from them. Moreover, geopolitical challenges faced by the other two of the Trio-Council Presidency remain burdensome factors of the Hungarian Presidency as well. In such context, Hungary will be on the test to maintain the focus on presidential programme priorities such as enhancing the EU’s long-term competitiveness and sustainable and inclusive growth while also keeping enlargement dynamism. Therefore, several questions arise: How European Parliament elections and existing geopolitical challenges will influence the Hungarian Presidency agenda and activities? What are concrete steps that Hungary plans to undertake to reinvigorate the EU enlargement? What are the positive advancements that its Western Balkan neighbours can expect during the upcoming six months?

Panelists:

  • H.E. Cathy Buggenhout, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Serbia
  • H.E. Jozsef Zoltan Magyar, Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary to the Republic of Serbia
  • H.E. Emanuele Giaufret, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia
  • H.E. Tanja Miščević, Minister for European Integration of the Republic of Serbia
  • Mr. Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of the Governing Board of the European Policy Centre – CEP

The panel will be moderated by Milena Mihajlović, Programme Director of the European Policy Centre.

The working language of this event is English. If you wish to attend the event, please register. Only the registered participants will be able to attend.

This event is held within the series of traditional gatherings initiated by CEP and the EU Info Centre six years ago. Its overarching objective is to instigate a substantive debate on EU priorities, presenting insights from the point of countries presiding over the Council of the EU — both outgoing and upcoming. Focused on current topics within the accession process, this biannual occasion serves as a platform for advancing the discourse on Serbia’s EU integration. Attended by representatives from the diplomatic corps, state institutions, and civil society organisations, the event consistently attracts widespread media coverage.

Date

03.07.2024

Time

10:00 - 12:00