Forming ever closer technological investment and economic cooperation with Asia is in Europe’s best interests in order to improve its competitiveness, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Madrid on Monday.

“We Hungarians are at the vanguard of this aspiration as it is the first time this year in Hungary that an Eastern country, the Republic of Korea brought the most investment to Hungary, not a Western country,” he told the Hungarian news agency MTI.

He said in the interest of creating the funding background for European-Asian technological cooperation, Hungary is urging even closer cooperation between the European Investment Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Budapest-centred International Investment Bank. At present, many of the new technologies that determine the development of the world economy come to the West, and more particularly to Europe from Asia, he observed.

The Foreign Minister said the pace of changes in the world economy is being dictated much more from the East than from the West. Ten years ago, 77 per cent of the investments implemented around the world were financed from Western capital, and only 13 per cent from Eastern capital. Today, however, these ratios are 47 and 43 per cent, Eastern capital taking the lead, he said, adding that this also clearly shows that Asian countries and companies are playing an ever more important role in shaping world economic processes.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade stressed that Hungary as an export-oriented country will ask the new European Commission to accelerate free trade talks with Asian countries which are at present making very slow progress. “It is in our best interest to remove all obstacles from trade between Europe and Asia as well,” he added. Mr Szijjártó said during the Madrid meeting he had talks with the foreign ministers of Laos, Thailand, Kazakhstan and the Philippines about further increasing Hungarian food exports.

As African swine fever is causing all European countries losses on the Asian markets, he informed his counterparts that in Hungary this virus was only identified in game stocks, and asked them to lift import restrictions in the case of Hungarian pork. The Foreign Minister announced that an agreement had been concluded under which Hungary would provide 2,100 scholarships for university students from different Asian countries as part of the ASEM cooperation.