“After having handled the epidemic, the time has now come for economic protection in view of the fact that the global pandemic is not just a healthcare issue, but also an economic issue, and if we work in close cooperation during the course of economic protection then both Serbia and Hungary could achieve major success”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Belgrade at a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart.

He highlighted the fact that it was evident during the coronavirus epidemic that East-West infrastructure passes through Serbia and Hungary, “and this is something from which we must profit”. “For this reason, over the upcoming months and years cooperation between Serbia and Hungary will be about major infrastructure development projects”, he explained.

“The global pandemic has shown more clearly and obviously than ever before that we, the Hungarians and Serbians, live in close interdependence here in Central Europe, and we have determined that during the time of the global pandemic this relationship between us has only become stronger”, Mr. Szijjártó pointed out.

He highlighted the fact that the borders between the two countries were successfully opened within the shortest possible amount of time. “Serbia was the first non-European Union country with which Hungary was able to open the full extent of its border, and in fact Serbia was the first non-European Union country to be able to open its borders with an EU member state”, he stated. “Accordingly, we were able to cooperate well during the healthcare protection period of the pandemic, and it is now time for the economic protection phase”, he underlined.

“The two countries can profit from their geographical location. We are refurbishing the railway line linking Budapest and Belgrade, are modernising the railway line between Subotica (Szabadka) and Szeged, and are constructing a new gas pipeline that will be transporting natural gas to Central Europe from the south via the Turkish Stream pipeline. From the end of next year, we will have a gas interconnector that is capable of transporting 6 billion cubic metres of natural gas in the direction of Hungary from Serbia, and we will be increasing the capacity of this interconnector up to almost 10 billion cubic metres over the upcoming years”, Mr. Szijjártó detailed.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade drew attention to the fact that Serbia’s success is also in Hungary’s interests, because “the better Serbia performs, the better it is for us, partly because of the Vojvodina Hungarians, and partly because our economies have become closely intertwined, with our trade flow already exceeding 2.5 billion euros last year”. He said the Hungarian government has provided a total of 9.1 billion forints (EUR 26.2 million) in funding towards the investment projects of nine Hungarian enterprises in Serbia within the fields of agriculture, food processing and the construction industry. “And from Friday, a new tender opportunity will become available to Hungarian enterprises; the Hungarian government is launching a funding program with a budget of 25 billion forints (EUR 72 million) for Hungarian enterprises that wish to realise investment projects in neighbouring countries”, he announced. “According to projections, there is a high level of interest in Serbian investment opportunities”, he added.
With relation to Sunday’s Serbian elections, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted that the Hungarian government does not wish to interfere in the elections, but is rooting for a major success for the existing Serbian government coalition. “We are rooting for their success for two reasons. Firstly, because the party that represents the Vojvodina Hungarians is part of this coalition, and we sincerely hope that Vojvodina Hungarians will continue to have the opportunity to take part in important decisions concerning the future of Serbia, and secondly, we are also rooting for the current government coalition because it is with this Serbian government coalition that we have been able to transform the relationship between Hungary and Serbia into a historically important friendship”, he emphasised. “This is one of the most important national policy achievements that we, the Hungarians and the Serbians, Serbians and Hungarians, have been able to jointly put on the table in recent years”, he continued.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić thanked Hungary for all the assistance it has provided during the course of Serbia’s European integration process, and also during the coronavirus epidemic. As he explained, “the Hungarian Foreign Minister has always been the loudest proponent of Serbia’s European integration”. He highlighted the fact that the relationship between Serbian and Hungary, and between the Serbian and Hungarian governments, is outstanding, in addition to which the Serbian government also maintains excellent relations with the most important partner of Serbian Hungarians, the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)