“Hungary regards Bulgaria as having a key role in the establishment of gas supply from the south, and accordingly it expects energy to determine relations between the two countries in future”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a press conference on Tuesday in Budapest following the second session of the Hungarian-Bulgarian Joint Economic Committee.

The Committee’s Co-Chair told reporters that next year Hungary would like to already begin purchasing gas from the Turkish Stream pipeline, which traverses Serbia and Bulgaria, and accordingly is beginning the legal and infrastructure preparations. “Bulgaria has already launched the required infrastructure development programmes, and Hungary will be publishing the capacity contracting procedure required to import the natural gas in September”, he added.

The Minister emphasised that the value of imports from the south has gained value in view of the possible termination of shipments via Ukraine, and by the future commencement of extraction of Black Sea natural gas on the part of American energy companies. He also announced that Bulgarian-Hungarian energy relations also include professional cooperation and the exchange of experiences concerning licencing and security with relation to nuclear power stations, since, similarly to Hungary, Bulgaria is also in the process of building a nuclear power plant.

According to the Minister’s expectations, trade flow between the two countries will exceed the over one and a half billion euros achieved last year, and Eximbank has opened a 165-million-euro credit line in the interests of further expansion. He also highlighted that Hungarian enterprises represent the 8th largest investor group in Bulgaria, and with the acquisition of Société Générale ’s local subsidiary, Hungarian bank OTP has become the second largest bank on the Bulgarian market, while one of Hungarian pharmaceutical company Richter’s most important products has been included on the list of pharmaceuticals subsidised by the Bulgarian state.

Mr. Szijjártó emphasised that Bulgaria is not just an important ally economically, but also politically, in view of the fact that in recent months it has consistently stood by Hungary, rejected the Global Compact for Migration, and protected Europe from the wave of migration arriving via the Balkans. “For this reason, the Hungarian Government is supporting Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen Area”, he added.

Assessing the work of the Committee, the Bulgarian Minister of Economy highlighted the significance of talks relating to tourism and agriculture. Emil Karanikolov welcomed the fact that economic relations between the two counties are developing rapidly, and that last year’s increased in trade flow it expected to continue this year. “No conflict of interests arose at the talks, and negotiations will continue on the schedule for the establishment of gas transport infrastructure”, he stated.