“Hungary and Serbia have a mutual interest in each other’s success, and the jointly written success story, which primarily concerns the success of the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina and of the Serbian minority in Hungary, began a few years ago”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó highlighted on Thursday in Szabadka (Subotica), where contracts were concluded with more than 3700 successful applicants within the framework of the Hungarian Government’s economic recovery programme for Vojvodina.

Mr. Szijjártó declared that the signing of the winning tenders was tangible and irrefutable proof that relations and cooperation between Hungary and Serbia have never been so good, explaining that previous historical tensions between the two countries and the two nations have slowly been transformed into a historic friendship, and both countries regard the Hungarian community in Vojvodina as a link that connects the two countries and the two peoples.

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Hungary had originally set aside a budget of 50 billion forints for the Vojvodina Economic Recovery Programme, but funding was later increased and accordingly the preferential loans and non-returnable funding now totals some 65 billion forints (EUR 208M). The main emphasis in the programme for 2016-2018 is being placed on agriculture, tourism and the development of small and medium sized enterprises to deter young Hungarian from emigrating and to begin reversing this process.

“Reinforcing minority communities also reinforces Hungary and Serbia, as well as relations between the two countries”, Mr. Szijjártó said, adding that it took great effort from leaders on both sides of the border and much courage and many compromises were required for the two peoples to begin regarding each other as friends.

“It required courage, but also the perseverance of the local populations”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade added. “It is better for out minorities if the two countries maintain good relations, and this kind of rational and correct politics that is based on mutual respect has the support of people living on both sides of the border”, he declared.

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Mr. Szijjártó explained that the joint success story of the two countries must continue to be written with relation to two chapters: the further reinforcement of the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina and through the European integration of Serbia, stressing that the system could not work without mutual trust.

“To us, it is a matter of honour that,  just as the Serbian Government has concern for the Hungarian community in Vojvodina as important, so too does the Hungarian Government regard the Serbian minority in Hungary as important”, he explained.

“Serbia deserves to become a member of the European Union, Serbia’s place is in the EU”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister underlined, adding that Hungary will never allow another E member state of a Brussels institution to clock or slow Serbia’s EU integration. “A rapid Serbian accession is in everyone’s interests”, he declared.

“The goal is for Hungary’s largest cross-border economic development programme to be successful, and the Hungarian Government’s decision means the beginning of a new and determinative era in the lives of Vojvodina Hungarians”, Mr. Szijjártó added.

In his speech, the Minister also congratulated Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić on his victory in the presidential elections. “A victory for Aleksandar Vučić is also a victory for the Alliance of Vojovidna Hungarians (VMSZ) and for the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina”, he declared.

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The Hungarian Government is realising the economic recovery programme in conjunction with the VMSZ. I his speech, President of the Alliance István Pásztor stressed that never before has 3734 tender applicants signed funding contracts simultaneously in Vojvodina, adding that the total value of the winning applications exceeds 5.7 billion forints (EUR 18.2M). “This money will also be used by those receiving it to contribute to the development of the region in view of the fact that the funding will lead to the creation of jobs and will also assist other enterprises via orders and purchases”, he said.

The Hungarian community in Vojvodina is a “small community that has suffered greatly, but it is a hardy community that has close ties to its homeland and want to make a living here”, he declared. “Thanks to the funding received form the Hungarian Government, the Hungarians of Vojvodina have been able to preserve their identity and existence”, Mr. Pásztor added.

The VMSZ President thanked the Serbian Government’s Minister without portfolio responsible for European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, who was also present at the event, for the fact that Serbia was open to the realisation of the programme and was not creating difficulties for applicants. “In addition to helping the Hungarian monitory in Vojvodina, the funding is also contributing to boosting the Serbian economy”, he pointed out.

“Tenders for major investment projects will also be published within a month, within the framework of to which 28.5 billion forints (EUR 123M) will be distributed among enterprises, in addition to which tenders aimed at assisting the purchasing of farmland and village houses will also continue”, Mr. Pásztor added.

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In her speech, Jadranka Joksimović assured those present of the support of the Serbian Government and stressed: “Progress and economic growth are the goal of every Serbian citizen, regardless of their nationality”, adding that bilateral relations between Serbia and Hungary had improved significantly in recent years and this relationship must further tightened in future.