“It is in Hungary’s clear interests for Serbia to be a strong country, in view of the fact that the strength of our neighbours adds to ours”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó emphasised to the Hungarian press in Szabadka (Subotica) on Monday. Prior to a joint Hungarian-Serbian cabinet meeting, the politician held talks with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, and Minister for European Integration Jadranka Joksimović.

“Hungary is doing everything in the interests of contributing to the reinforcement of Serbia, partly economically and partly through accelerating the European integration process”, he said.

“We no not accept the fact that the EU cannot be enlarged until 2025, and we also do not accept the fact that the European Commission is artificially slowing Serbia’s integration process”, he underlined.

Mr. Szijjártó said that in his opinion it is clear that among the true supporters of Serbia’s integration, Hungary is the only one who dares to openly voice its opinion. He pointed out that the political mainstream in Europe today is anti-enlargement, and accordingly a tough battle must be fought in Brussels for the enlargement process to actually begin, and for the artificial barriers erected by the European Commission to disappear.

The Minister drew attention to the fact that the Hungarian economy is undergoing a dimensional transition, meaning that the Government is now not only providing budgetary funding to encourage investors to come to Hungary, but also for Hungarian enterprises to invest abroad.

“The primary target of this external investment strategy is Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina”, he said, adding that the Government has authorised a budget of ten billion forints (EUR 31 million) for this goal. In addition, Eximbank has authorised a 110-million-euro credit line to facilitate Hungarian-Serbian trade, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has established a 1.6 billion-forint (EUR 5 million) fund to facilitate joint infrastructure development projects in Serbia with the participation of Hungarian and Serbian enterprises, he explained.

Mr. Szijjártó drew attention to the fact that a Hungarian diplomat is continuing to serve at the Serbian Ministry of Integration, which is another way in which Budapest is assisting the Serbian integration process. “We are calling for the earliest possible opening of all negotiation chapters with Serbia”, he underlined.

The Minister also spoke about Hungary’s Vojvodina economic development programme, as a result of which 65 billion forints in investments have been realised in Vojvodina within the fields of agriculture, tourism and integration. The Government has earmarked a further 7.5 billion forints (EUR 23.3 million) in funding for the financing of the programme this year.

On Monday, the Serbian and Hungarian parties will also be signing an agreement aimed at expanding the diplomatic network. “This is a so-called collocation agreement, which means that we will be able to place diplomats at each other’s embassies, as a result of which we will be able to provide our personal presence more efficiently and at lower cost in places around the world where we have no personal presence at the moment”, Mr. Szijjártó explained.

Over ten agreements were concluded at Monday’s joint Hungarian-Serbian cabinet meeting.