Bank of China, one of the biggest Chinese commercial banks will open its regional centre for Central and Eastern Europe this year in Budapest, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó informed MTI in Beijing following his negotiations on Monday.

“Today’s agreement means that the ninth most powerful bank of the world, which gained a foothold in our region - more exactly in Hungary - in 1997, will coordinate its regional operations from Hungary. This is a significant recognition of the Hungarian financial investment environment”, the minister said.

Bank of China Chairman Tian Guoli also emphasised during his talks with the minister that the bank wants  to increase the importance of   the national currency, promoting the use of the Chinese yuan in international trade. Today the yuan is the second-most used currency in global trade finance, the chairman confirmed.

DownloadSziijártó Péter a Bank of China (BOC) elnökével, Tien Kuo-livel a BOC székházában Pekingben. Fotó: Trebitsch Péter, MTI

Péter Szijjártó also emphasised that BoC has been regularly cooperating with Hungarian Eximbank, and so far has supported the investments of Wanhua Borsodchem with a joint loan of EUR 70 million. Their latest project is the disbursement of a loan of EUR 40 million with contribution from Eximbank and the BoC to promote exports. The minister said that BoC and Eximbank are cooperating in financing other investments in Hungary as well, and also mentioned  a recent project of Huawei.

Péter Szijjártó also paid a visit to the National Committee for Development and Reform and had discussions with the leaders of the committee about the modernisation of the Budapest – Belgrád railway line. He reminded that “we have recently signed the protocol at the meeting of the trilateral Chinese-Serbian-Hungarian working group, according to which the Chinese government is currently working on the first so called ‘feasibility study on cooperation’ that contains the conditions of implementation and financing”.

DownloadSzijjártó Péter előadást tart a pekingi Kínai Társadalomtudományi Akadémián. Fotó: Trebitsch Péter, MTI

It was also agreed, the minister said, that a new agreement would be prepared for the Belgrade summit meeting between China and the 16 Central and Eastern European countries, which would take the preparation of the railway project to the next phase, as a Hungarian-Chinese-Serbian intergovernmental agreement.

Answering a question whether Hungary attaches any condition to the implementation of the railway project, the minister said that “we have a  signed agreement that we take part in the construction of a new double-track railway for trains travelling at up to 160 km/h. Our standpoint is that we need a credit line on more favourable conditions than those available on the market. This is a very important precondition of the cooperation”, he added.

DownloadFotó: Trebitsch Péter, MTI

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade held a lecture on Monday in front of a large audience at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences where he talked about the challenges facing the European Union and about what he considers important for Europe to remain powerful. He said that “Europe has to restore the respect of work and family”, it has to return to responsible and disciplined budgetary policies and has to stop the increase of budget deficits. According to the minister, Europe can be powerful if it is able to build close cooperation with the fast developing regions of the world, including closer cooperation between Europe and China. The condition of Europe’s success, continued Péter Szijjártó in his lecture, is to reduce its unilateral energy dependence.

He added that, from this point of view, the establishment of the Central European North-South pipeline is of “critical” importance. As he said the EU should treat the construction of terminals for the regasification of liquefied natural gas as a high priority issue. He also added that Hungary considers the construction of the South Stream Pipeline a diversification that would eventually increase Europe’s energy security. The minister also emphasised in his lecture that the EU can be powerful if powerful nation-states are its members.

Péter Szijjártó inaugurated the Kodály reference library in the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Beijing, which is the next step of cultural cooperation and as such improves relations between the two countries. The reference library primarily offers useful materials about Hungarian music pedagogy methods.

In response to a question by MTI about his absence from the Monday meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian National Assembly, which provoked criticism from Hungarian political parties and the media, Péter Szijjártó said that “I came to China on the invitation of the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs to negotiate at an agreed date”. He added that “last week I informed the chairman of the committee that I was going to be in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday and I would be at their disposal on Wednesday, but the answer of the committee was that they would prefer it if a Minister of State represented me. And that’s what happened”, the minister said in Beijing.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó continues his official visit in Beijing on Tuesday, where he will meet his host, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Wang Yi.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)