Budapest Forum 2022: EU expansion, Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership – What is the right way forward?



Keynote speech: Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

Manuel Sarrazin, Special Representative for the Countries of the Western Balkan

Sedana Šelo Šabić, Institute for Development and International Relations, Zagreb

Nikola Dimitrov, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, North Macedonia

Péter Balázs, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hungary

Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies

Moderator: Hedvig Morvai, Director, Strategy and Europe, ERSTE Foundation

Main takeaways

  • Because of the war and other crises, Europe is facing turbulent times. Therefore, the enlargement of the EU with the application of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and the Western Balkans are geopolitical priorities.
  • This is a last call for Europe, because the currently applied countries are not in the ’waiting room’ of the EU. Because of the current geopolitical situation, and the war, they are in an ’emergency room’, where the accelerated application process is a crucial point in the defense of these countries.
  • In many cases, the reluctance of the enlargement among the member states, coming from the negative experiencies of the last decades, when new-comers in the EU – like Hungary and Poland – are not following the requirements and the obligations.
  • Nowadays, the geopolitical situation makes the enlargement even harder than the last decades, because the lack of support in the applied countires and among the current member states, and also the EU has to deal with pressure from third, ’big power’ countries, like Russia, Turkey and China.
  • Ukraine and Moldova is enthusiastic about their newly agreed application, which is an advantage over some Balkan countries whose have applied for the membership even twenty years ago.
  • North Macedonia, and other Balkan countries must focus on the real issues of corruption and partocracy, instead of identical and histiorical questions.

Policy recommendations

  • The well prepared new enlargement methodology is just a framework, but if the EU wants to integrate the war-torn Ukraine, the EU has to change the conditions.
  • A stronger NATO presence in the Balkan can counter non-European interventions in the region.
  • North Macedonia, and other eastern countries must focus on the real issues of corruption and partocracy, instead of identical and histiorical questions.
  • The application of more unstable countries like Bosnia Herzegovina, is a carrying the risk of foreign intervention by third countries. In addition to this, it is not only an issue for the citizens of the region. All the member states have to agree in the decision-making process.
  • The EU has to think about what can they offer for the divided countries, like Serbia, to not just join the EU’s economic conventions, but to implement a whole new view on foreign politics.

This event was sponsored by the ERSTE Stiftung.



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