Recently, it is seen that Hungary and Serbia have started to develop partnerships in various fields. In this context, the topics of “irregular migration and energy” are of great importance between the parties. These issues also play an important role in shaping Hungary’s stance on the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo.
Although Hungary is located in Central Europe, it is also an important actor in the Balkans due to its geopolitical position. Four of Hungary’s seven border neighbors are Balkan countries. The countries are Serbia, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia. In this context, the fact that Hungary and Serbia are border states pushes the parties to cooperate in various fields.
On the other hand, the energy factor has an important place in the rapprochement between Hungary and Serbia. In this context, in October 2022, Serbian President Alexander Vucic announced the construction of the Hungary-Serbia Oil Pipeline, which will carry Russian oil. The pipeline is 128 km long and will connect the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad to Hungary. Therefore, especially when the European Union’s (EU) oil sanctions against Russia and the war conjuncture are taken into consideration, it is seen that the two countries have taken steps to ensure their energy security by partnering with each other. In other words, the Russia-Ukraine War led to results that further deepened the cooperation of the parties.
As it will be recalled, on November 16, 2022, the leaders of Hungary, Serbia and Austria signed a memorandum of understanding on the prevention of irregular migration to Europe. In this context, the parties agreed to act together to control the arrival of new migrants along the migration route through Serbia. Hungary and Serbia are therefore cooperating to prevent irregular migration, especially to Europe. Already, both countries are coming to the fore with their harsh anti-immigrant stance.
On the other hand, Hungary is a member of the EU, while Serbia has the status of a candidate for the union. Kosovo formally applied for EU membership in December 2022. In this respect, both Kosovo and Serbia have EU membership aspirations. However, Kosovo’s independence is not recognized by states such as Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Greece in the EU. Although it has recognised Kosovo’s independence, it is understood that Hungary’s recent developments will create obstacles for Pristina’s EU membership.
In this context, the visit of Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic to Hungary on January 10, 2023 is very important. Dacic met with his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, as well as Viktor Orban. The Serbian Foreign Minister announced that Hungary will veto Kosovo’s admission to various organizations, such as the EU and the Council of Europe. Szijjarto also suggested that Kosovo’s early admission to various European institutions could jeopardize the search for reconciliation between the parties. Therefore, Szijjarto stated that Hungary would not accept Kosovo’s membership in these institutions.
It is understood that Hungary will create obstacles in the process of Kosovo’s integration with the EU. In particular, Belgrade’s main objective vis-à-vis Pristina is to prevent Kosovo’s membership in international institutions and organizations. Thus, Serbia wants to prevent Kosovo from gaining legitimacy. Just as Serbia’s traditional ally Russia is blocking Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations (UN) because it is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Hungary seems to be implementing a similar policy in terms of Pristina’s integration with EU institutions. In this respect, Hungary’s move has been a significant development for Serbia.
On the other hand, it is also clear from Szijjarto’s meeting with his Serbian counterpart to the level to which the partnership between the two countries has risen. In this context, the Hungarian Foreign Minister drew attention to the common fate of Belgrade and Budapest and stated that the two countries face two important security problems arising from illegal migration and the Russia-Ukraine War. Moreover, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary made the following statements:
“Because of our neighborhood and geographical proximity, the security effects of war and the economic and energy security effects of sanctions directly affect both of us.”
As can be seen, a kind of interdependence has been formed between Serbia and Hungary with the effect of the war. Moreover, considering that the EU is not satisfied with the policy pursued by both states towards the war in the current conjuncture in Europe, this partnership becomes even more meaningful.
Moreover, economy and energy have an important place in the relations between the parties. In this context, Szijjarto stated that the trade volume between the two countries increased by 75% in 2022 compared to the previous year. Szijjarto also said that Hungary’s guarantee of energy security lies with Serbia because TurkStream is the only natural gas pipeline currently operating at 100% capacity in the East-West direction on the continent.
In addition to all this, Szijjarto pointed out that 4.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas entered Hungary through Serbia in 2022, which is close to half of the total domestic consumption. Szijjarto stressed that Budapest is ready to implement new infrastructure investments to ensure the security of oil supplies to Belgrade, and that the parties will double the capacity of electricity interconnection between the two countries within five years.
These data are very important in terms of revealing how critical the partnership between Hungary and Serbia is for the two countries. In this respect, it is seen that Belgrade and Budapest are complementary actors in energy security.
In conclusion, it can be argued that there is a strategic partnership between Hungary and Serbia. The two countries cooperate closely, especially on irregular migration and energy issues. Therefore, this situation seems to prevent Kosovo’s integration with the EU.
 “Serbia-Hungary Pipeline Deal a Big Political Gamble”, Balkan Insight, https://balkaninsight.com/2022/10/17/serbia-hungary-pipeline-deal-a-big-political-gamble/, (Date of Accession:12.01.2023).
 “Austria Teams Up With Hungary, Serbia to End Asylum a la Carte”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/austria-teams-up-with-hungary-serbia-to-end-asylum-a-la-carte/, (Date of Accession:12.01.2023).
 “Serbia Says Hungary Will Vote Against Kosovo EU, CoE Membership”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/serbia-says-hungary-will-vote-against-kosovo-eu-coe-membership/, (Date of Accession:12.01.2023).
 “Hungary and Serbia Face the Same Security Challenges”, Hungary Today, https://hungarytoday.hu/hungary-and-serbia-face-the-same-security-challenges/, (Date of Accession:12.01.2023).