“This year, Hungarian foreign policy once again has only one goal: the representation of Hungarian interests”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a press conference in Budapest on Friday.

“In every case, Hungarian foreign policy makes its decisions based exclusively on Hungarian interests”, the Minister stressed. “Subservience in never rewarded, and in the long term it goes to the detriment of the given country, and so, as has been the case so far, this year Hungarian foreign policy will again be directed ‘from Budapest and from Bem Square’, and not from anywhere else”, he added.

“Thanks to the politics represented in recent years, we are one of very few countries that maintains balanced relations with the major powers that determine the life of our region, including the United States, Russia, Germany, China and Turkey”, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted.

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“The upcoming year is sure to be one of the most exciting years of the period since the end of the Cold War from a foreign policy perspective, and will be determined by a decidedly more patriotic American administration, the possible improvement of Russian-American relations, the EU-Russian conflict and China, which continues to grow from an economic perspective”, the Foreign Minister explained.

The Ministry has previously entered into disputes in the interests of furthering the success of Hungarian foreign policy, and if this year there will again be issues with relation to which we must stand by the Hungarian standpoint, then we will undertake such disputes again. “This year too, we will afford everyone respect and expect to be respected by everyone else”, he said.

With regard to the upcoming foreign policy-related events of the first half of the year, Mr. Szijjártó mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest next Thursday, during which negotiations will centre on the economy, energy and culture. “The official programme begins on Wednesday with a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers. President Putin will be arriving at around midday on Thursday, when there will be a restricted meeting, a plenary discussion, an international press conference and a working lunch”, he said, adding that “the visit is perfectly timed, because we will be able to hear the Russian standpoint on opportunities for improving Russian-American relations”.

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“In May, Prime Minister Orbán will be visiting China, where he will meet with the Chinese President and hold a lecture at the One Belt, One Road forum”, he said, adding that “Additionally, this year’s meeting between China and 16 Eastern and Central European countries will be held in Budapest”.

“There will also be joint Hungarian-Turkish, Hungarian-Serbian and Hungarian-Slovenian cabinet meetings. The Israeli Prime Minister will be visiting Hungary, and the Hungarian-Iranian joint economic committee will also be meeting for the first time”, he said. “Furthermore, this year will also see the opening of the Hungarian Embassy in the Philippines”, he continued.

“The Romanian Foreign Minister will be visiting Budapest on 27 February and holding a speech at the annual ambassadorial meeting”, he noted.

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The Hungarian Foreign Minister also told reporters that Hungary will be taking over the Presidency of the Visegrád Group in the summer, and the main elements of the programme of the Hungarian Presidency will include the realisation of missing North-South transport corridors, the transition to a digital economy, energy security and the harmonisation of standpoints with relation to Brexit.

The Minister was also asked about developments with relation to last week’s bus tragedy near Verona, Italy, and told reporters that the Ministry is in continuous contact with the hospital that is caring for the two injured passengers who are in critical condition.

“The injured passenger who suffered burns is in a stable condition and is expected to receive a skin graft on Monday; if things go to plan they will be in a condition to allow them to be transported home in about a month. The condition of the other passenger, who suffered head injuries, is showing minor improvement and if this tendency continues then the possibility of removing them from their current state of induced coma will be put on the agenda”, he told reporters, adding that he/she may be in a condition to be transported home within two weeks.

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Mr. Szijjártó also mentioned that the identification of the bodies is taking longer than expected and may be competed sometime next week, and that official information will only be issued by the Italian authorities once the procedure is fully complete.

The Foreign Minister was also asked about news reports concerning the appointment of Jenő Csiszár as Consul General to Milan. “The current Consul General to Milan will be continuing his work as an Ambassador. Jenő Csiszár has a good command of Italian, has lived in the region for many years, can contribute to the development of trade and economic relations, and is fully capable of holding his ground in an emergency if required”, the Minister said.

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In reply to a question from the press, Mr. Szijjártó also spoke about the fact that Europe is under major pressure to act in response to the fact the Donald Trump has become the President of the United States, the United States and Russia could begin pragmatic cooperation, and Great Britain is leaving the EU. “The EU must take major steps to avoid losing its standing within the global economy and in world politics”, he said.

In reply to another question, he also told reporters that there are currently 143 Hungarian soldiers serving in Northern Iraq. “We have already sent weapons and munitions and we are now sending 65 machine guns and the required ammunition from the stocks of the Hungarian Defence Force; the details are still under discussion”, he said.