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Hungary pledges support for Macedonia’s EU entry May 14, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, Hungary, Macedonia.
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Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban on Thursday pledged his support for the early opening of European Union accession talks with Macedonia, blocked for six years over a name dispute with Greece.

“Hungary as a (rotating) chairman of the EU presidency will continue to have the start of talks with Macedonia at the top of the agenda,” Orban said after a meeting with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski.

Macedonia has the status of member candidate since January 2005, but because of Greek objections over its name the country’s entry into the EU and NATO is blocked.

Orban stressed that “this unnatural state should be resolved and Macedonia which has six years of candidate status should become a member as soon as possible”.

“There is no reason for someone to stop a country from becoming a part of Europe. Nothing will be damaged if the accession talks start,” he added. Orban insisted he was not taking sides in the long-running name row.

“It is my job to promote the interest of Europe, and the interest of the European Union is that Macedonia becomes a member as soon as possible,” he said.

Gruevski said Orban’s visit to Skopje was “a strong political signal that the Hungarian presidency is effectively devoted to continuing the process of European enlargement.”

Macedonia has been at loggerheads with Greece since it proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece, which has a northern province called Macedonia, says that the use of the same name by its neighbour implies a claim on Greek territory.

Hungarians fine with Turks in EU, as long as they come on Hungarian-made buses January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Hungary, Turkey.
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In the run-up to Hungary’s EU presidency earlier this month, I noticed a piece in the English-language version of leading Turkish dailyHürriyet that I thought was just a little odd. Entitled “Turkey’s hopes run high for Hungary’s EU term presidency”, it detailed how Ankara expects Budapest to push harder to move along Turkey’s EU accession application that Belgium, from which Hungary took over the rotating presidency. I was especially struck by this quote from Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bağış:

When asked about his expectations from the Hungarian term presidency, Bağış recalled a meeting he held last year with Hungarian President Pal Schmitt. “He told me: ‘Normally I do not meet with ministers. You are the first one in this category. There is a reason for this,” Bağış said. “‘Your ancestors who ruled our country in the past did not intervene in either our religion or our language. They approached us with tolerance.'”

So let me get this straight. France and other Western European countries that were never within a 50-day march of the Ottoman lines are openly blackballing Turkey’s EU entry, but a nation that was more or less wiped off the map as an independent force by the Turks now wants them back in Europe? And to think I got all weepy when I visited the Istanbul Military Museum and saw the battle drum captured from the Hungarians at the battle of Mohács.

Of course, unlike France and some of the others actively working to keep the Turks at bay, Hungary isn’t the destination for lots of Muslim immigrants. And I wouldn’t say that Hungary has anything to gain by pushing back against the Turks, or otherwise getting involved in the issue, which is unlikely to be resolved before Hungary rotates back into the EU presidency in a couple of decades. Still, it does seem a little strange that there is apparently no local opposition to reopening the gates to the country’s one-time Ottoman overlords.

Though I shouldn’t say there is no opposition. According to nol.hu, Hungarian bus manufacturers are “outraged” that a company which was contracted (without a proper tender, naturally) to transport diplomats and members of the international press from Ferihegy airport to downtown Budapest until the end of Hungary’s EU presidency is using Otokar Kent 290 LF buses, rather than supposedly superior Hungarian-made ones. Which sounds like a bad break, though as Hungarians like to say in such cases, a whole lot more was lost at Mohács.