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Hungary in the Balkans: Crafting the Southern Illiberal Flank 

October 12, 2023 by BSC0


The session “Hungary in the Balkans: Crafting the Southern Illiberal Flank” was moderated by Katerina Sinadinovska, Co-founder of the Balkan Center for Constructive Policies “Solution”, Former President, Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia. The debate focused on the foreign policy of Hungary and how the influence of Budapest affects the states of Western Balkan and their EU accession.



Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, Senior Fellow of Department of International Relations and History, Kodolanyi Janos University, stated that Hungarian public opinion was in line with Hungarian foreign policy regarding the Western Balkans which is fully supported. He emphasized the focus of Hungary on Serbia and Republika Srpska as its main political allies, calling them the “client states”. Ivanyi pointed out that Hungary was posing as the main supporter of the EU candidate states in the region, despite their questionable rule of law system.  



Ferenc Nemeth, Research Fellow, Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, added that Hungarian interest in the Western Balkans had started long before 2010, with the commencement of the EU enlargement process in the 1990s. He elaborated that, given the historical and demographic context, Hungary’s interest in the region was easily understandable.  However, the visibility of Hungary’s presence grew exponentially after 2010. He also noted that Hungarian interest in Serbia represented a mix of business and political interests. 



Srđan Cvijić, President of the International Advisory Committee of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, stressed three important bilateral issues between Hungary and Serbia: reconciliation, depopulation, and assimilation, which gained velocity with the Hungarian citizenship law of 2010. He continued to explain that, with the already mentioned law, Hungary allowed Serbian citizens who were not ethnically Hungarian, but could confirm their ties with Austro-Hungary from before 1920, were given the Hungarian citizenship. That contributed to the depopulation process and the movement of new Hungarian citizens from Serbia to the EU. When talking about economic relations, Cvijić pointed out the strong ties of Hungary and Serbia regarding the power sources of Russia, giving examples of gas links and potential nuclear power plants built by Russia.  



Adnan Ćerimagić, Senior Analyst, European Stability Initiative, explained the political ties between Dodik and Orban in Bosnia and Herzegovina which were initiated in the 2018 BiH elections when Orban’s political party shifted the support from “people parties” such as PDP and SDS to Dodik’s SNSD. He emphasized possible business ties that Dodik and Orban shared, as well as the interest Hungary had in the EU enlargement process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He pointed out that Orban was ready to protect Dodik from any type of pressure coming from the EU and the West, giving an example of the EU sanctions.  




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