“The European Union is facing many dilemmas, and Hungary and Flanders have a similar approach to these, their positions concur with relation to strategic points”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Wednesday in Budapest at a joint press conference with Minister-President of Flanders Jan Jambon.

“Both nations have an interest in a strong European Union, and agree that the EU can only be strong if it is built on strong nations that preserve their identities and are proud of their cultural, historical and religious heritage”, he stated. “We also agree that the EU must be able to defend itself; the protection of external borders is an important issue”, he said. “The preservation of the Schengen Zone is also critical with relation to the EU’s competitiveness, and the effective protection of the external borders is also vital to this”, the politician stated.

The Foreign Minister also spoke about the fact that Hungary and Flanders are engaged in significant economic cooperation, with three quarters of Hungarian-Belgian trade flow being realised with the Flemish region, which is an important centre for logistics and innovation. “Hungary and Flanders have an interest in free world trade, and accordingly would like future economic relations between the European Union and Great Britain to be hindered by as few barriers as possible. Great Britain provided 15 percent of the EU’s economic performance, and accordingly the country’s exit is definitely a major loss”, he said.

In reply to a question, Mr. Szijjártó said the Article 7 proceedings were an absolutely political attack. “However, the politics that the government is practicing is good for the Hungarian people, as also indicated by the election results, and accordingly we will be continuing our existing politics”, he declared.

Jan Jambon emphasised the importance of cooperation between Hungary and Flanders, and said the parties would like to tighten their relations, for which there are many opportunities available. He highlighted the important of economic relation, explaining that over a hundred Flemish enterprises have various business interests in Hungary. He also stressed the importance of education and cultural relations, mentioning the Rubens, Van Dyke and Flemish art exhibition currently on show at the Hungarian Museum of Fine Art. “Flanders practices a highly ambitious foreign policy, and would like to increase its role in international relations. For this reason, we are maintaining thirteen diplomatic representations, in addition to which we have established an investment and trade agency”, he stated.

With relation to Brexit, the Flemish politician emphasised the importance of European cooperation. “The exit of Great Britain does not affect all member states equally, but in Flanders it could endanger 28 thousand jobs, for instance”, he said. “An agreement is being made more difficult by the fact that there is very little time left available”, he added. Minister-President Jambon also said that it is important to preserve common European values, and accordingly there must be dialogue on issues such as the justice system and the freedom of the press.