“It is in Europe’s clear interests to relaunch the idea of a Eurasian free trade area, and that would also serve Hungary’s national economic interests”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Bratislava on Monday.

Hungary’s chief diplomat spoke about the issue following a meeting of foreign ministers from the countries of the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia: the V4), the Eastern Partnership (Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan), and Romania, the current President of the Council of the European Union, in Bratislava.

The primary topics of discussion at the meeting were trade and energy-related issues, as well as security.

“It is in Europe’s clear interests to establish close and tight cooperation with the most important participants of the global economy, and accordingly it is in its obvious interests to relaunch the idea of a Eurasian free trade area”, Mr. Szijjártó told reporters.

“The establishment of a free trade area would definitely also serve Hungary’s national economic interests”, he added.

“Hungary realises 1300 billion forints (EUR 4bn) in trade with the countries of the Eastern Partnership each year, and accordingly the fewer the bureaucratic barriers to commerce, the better”, he explained.

“The idea of a Eurasian free trade area was already raised years ago, but now that China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (BRI) is clearly dictating the tempo of global economic changes, it is justified that the topic should be put onto the agenda once again”, Mr. Szijjártó pointed out.

With relation to the Initiative, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said the infrastructure development projects that are fundamentally necessary for the tightening of economic cooperation are being realised within the framework of the BRI.

“Overall, free trade is in our interests, and tightening Eurasian economic cooperation is also in our interests”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined, adding that the implementation of a free trade agreement is already in process with three of the six countries of the Eastern Partnership (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia), and we are now recommending that this is expanded to include the other three countries.

Energy cooperation between the participants was also a subject of discussion at the meeting, with relation to which Mr. Szijjártó told the press: “It is in Hungary’s obvious interests for Azerbaijan to ship as much gas to Southeastern Europe via the southern gas corridor to enable it to also be counted on with relation to Central Europe’s gas supply”.

“We are calculating with several scenarios concerning the diversification of Hungary’s natural gas supply, but unfortunately these are all progressing very slowly, and accordingly it is important that we also keep gas from Azerbaijan among the possible scenarios”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister declared, pointing out: “This is one of the reasons why we are calling for the European Union to provide all possible support towards the development of the southern gas corridor”.