Refurbishment works have already begun on the Serbian section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, while in Hungary preparations for the construction works have also begun. The contract for the comprehensive planning and construction of the Hungarian section was signed with the Chinese-Hungarian consortium last month, Minister for Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said on Friday in Belgrade, at a press conference that was held after the meeting of the Hungarian-Serbian-Chinese task force responsible for the development of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line.

The Minister said the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line has started as a flagship of the cooperation between China and Central Europe, but has become more than that: it has shown how Europe is able to cooperate with China, but equally how Central European countries are able to cooperate with one another.

Mr Palkovics spoke about the issue of border crossing stations, and said in answer to a journalist’s question that the transportation of goods and persons is indeed not effective enough if border crossing on the express railway line is a slow process. He added that the question had already emerged at the joint Hungarian-Serbian government meeting held in the spring, and since then the parties have set up a task force whose duty it is to find a solution to the problem. The possible solutions include the acceleration of border and customs controls via consolidation, the simplification of technological possibilities with a view to the relevant Schengen expectations, and making border crossing simpler with the enhancement of the available capacity, the opening of new lanes and the extension of opening hours.

Serbian Transport Minister Zorana Mihajlovic pointed out that at the Friday meeting they had reviewed the results achieved so far, and had identified the tasks for the period ahead in order to complete the express railway line between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals within the shortest possible time.

She highlighted that the idea of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line had emerged five years ago; since then, the construction of two sections in Serbia has already started and will soon be completed, while the construction of the third section is expected to begin next year. According to expectations, the entire Serbian section will be completed by the end of 2022.

She added that the parties agreed that the refurbishment of the railway section between Belgrade and Budapest in itself is not enough to ensure that Chinese goods reach Western Europe from the Greek ports within the shortest possible time; the entire railway line should be refurbished. Therefore, the idea of also involving North Macedonia and Greece in the project has also emerged. In answer to a journalist’s question, the Serbian Minister pointed out that every single point of the construction project is in harmony with the relevant European regulations.

Ning Jizhe, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China pointed out that China continues to be ready to support the development of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line in order for the project to serve as a good example of successful cooperation between China and Western Europe. He expressed hope that, in addition to railway developments, cooperation in the future would also extend to motorways, bridges and other infrastructure developments as well as to the implementation of energy projects.

This was the eighth meeting of the Hungarian-Serbian-Chinese task force for the development of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line.

On Friday in Belgrade, Mr Palkovics also had talks with his Serbian counterpart Nenad Popovic about cooperation opportunities in the fields of innovation and technology, and the two politicians signed a declaration of intent on cooperation, based on which researchers, university students, engineers, innovative businesses and start-ups will be able to work and carry out development projects together in the future.