Polish lower house speaker visits Hungary for regional summit

2019-11-03 16:48 update: 2019-11-11, 10:57
Polish Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elzbieta Witek . Photo PAP PAP/Marcin Gadomski
Polish Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elzbieta Witek . Photo PAP PAP/Marcin Gadomski
Polish Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elzbieta Witek started a two-day official visit to Hungary on Sunday to take part on Monday in the 9th Summit of Heads of Parliaments of South-eastern European countries, to focus on EU enlargement.

Speaking to reporters in Budapest on Sunday, Witek expressed hope that accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia "will start as soon as possible, and that the EU should be enlarged in order to ensure more security and stability in our region and the entire EU."

She stressed that it was a bad thing that the European Council had not decided to launch accession negotiations with Balkan countries, especially Albania and North Macedonia.

"The arrival of heads of parliaments of the Visegrad Group to a meeting organised for heads of parliaments of south-eastern European countries is to show that we support the EU expansion," the Polish official said.

Asked what the Budapest Declaration would call for, Witek answered that, "we hope for the fastest possible beginning of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia." She also said that the point was also to speed up the ongoing negotiations "since the EU is being built on the message of unity, solidarity and cooperation."

"We know that it is not easy to join the EU, and that aspiring countries, just like us some time ago, have to deal with huge problems and overcome many difficulties. We want to help them, showing them the way and giving them examples of our solutions (...). And we hope that we will finally manage to enlarge the EU," she said. 

The conference, hosted by Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary Laslo Kover, will be attended by Deputy Speaker of the Albanian Parliament Vasilika Hysi, President of the Parliament of Montenegro Ivan Brajovic, President of the Assembly of North Macedonia Talat Xhaferi, and President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Maja Gojkovic.

The head of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirsad Zaimovic, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska Nedeljko Cubrilovic (one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and President of the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina Istvan Pasztor will be honorary guests of the summit.

The Polish Sejm speaker as well as the president of the Senate of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Kubera, and the speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Andrej Denko, have been invited to attend as special guests.

The summit, to start on Monday, will be inaugurated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and addressed by the heads of parliaments of the Visegrad Group, comprising Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The meeting will be held to discuss the EU's further expansion. In mid-October the majority of EU leaders supported the proposal to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. But France, supported by the Netherlands and Denmark, came out against the move and made it impossible to launch negotiations. Some EU leaders talked about a historical error.

The refusal to open enlargement talks by the EU was a heavy blow to Skopje. The day after the EU summit in Brussels, Northern Macedonia's prime minister, Zoran Zaew, called for early parliamentary elections, expressing his "disappointment and outrage" at the decision of the EU member states. The leaders of Macedonia's main parties agreed for the ballot to be held next spring.

A few days later, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg spoke by phone with Zaew to confirm the North Atlantic Alliance's commitments regarding Macedonia's accession.

"The ratification process is well on track and I look forward to North Macedonia joining our Alliance soon," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday, Elzbieta Witek laid wreaths at a memorial commemorating victims of the tragic crash of the Polish presidential plane near Smolensk, Russia, on April 10, 2010, and at a monument honouring Polish inter-war statesman Jozef Pilsudski.

Ninety-six people were killed in the Smolensk air disaster including then President Lech Kaczynski, First Lady Maria Kaczynska and dozens of senior government and military officials. (PAP)