A Chinese-Hungarian consortium that has won a tender to upgrade a rail line connecting Budapest and Belgrade will sign a contract by May 25, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said ,adding that details of the financing contract for the upgrade between Exim Bank of China and the Hungarian government are expected to be hammered out by the middle of summer. Construction could start early in 2020 and be completed within five years.

The Budapest-Belgrade railway line will represent the fastest transport link between southeastern Europe and the inner continent, Szijjarto told Hungarian public radio. China's Belt and Road Initiative has created an international cooperation project which involves significant infrastructure development, boosts trading and promotes the expansion of financial services. Hungary can profit from its geographical location because China's Maritime Silk Road ends in Greek ports, he said. This will generate competition to decide who can transport goods towards inner Europe in the shortest time, he added.

In air transport, a new passenger service will be launched between Shanghai and Budapest on June 7, he said. Last year, record-many 256,000 Chinese tourists visited Hungary representing a 14 percent increase from the previous year and this January the increase was 32 percent, he added. Part of the reason for the increase is that Hungarian visa applications can now be submitted in 15 cities throughout China and visas are issued within 48 hours, he said.

China is financing 85 percent of the cost of upgrading the line which will become part of a corridor for delivery of Chinese goods to Europe from the port of Piraeus in Greece. Szijjártó, who was in Beijing on an official visit with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the end of April, said bilateral agreements had been signed on exports of poultry to China, on the establishment of a working group to promote free trade, and on cooperation in the area of digital development.


Viktor Orbán meeting with President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan
to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Hungary and China

The Belt and Road Initiative is fully in harmony with Hungarian interests, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said during talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang while in Beijing. Orbán said it was a great "honour" to be invited to the second forum of the economic initiative. Belt and Road is a "serious safeguard of worldwide free trade and the freedom of world economy", Orbán said. As "Hungarians need an open world economy," Hungary is ready to cooperate further within the initiative, and will reject "all outside ideological pressure" to the contrary because the Hungarian government will "always act according to national interests", Orbán said.

Chinese companies have greatly contributed to modernising the Hungarian economy, Orbán said. Chinese investments have now reached some 4.5 billion dollars in Hungary, he noted, and proposed that the inflow of capital investments be upheld in the future.


Prime Minister Orbán meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang

In his greeting to the Hungarian delegation, Li Keqiang praised Sino-Hungarian cooperation and expressed hope that it should be extended further in sectors such as digitisation. Cooperation between the countries has already brought results and offers great opportunities for large companies as well as SMEs of both countries, he said. Free trade and economic development will strengthen world peace, too, Li said.

While in China Orbán also met with President Xi Jinping when the two marked the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Hungary and China, the successes in economic cooperation and European affairs.

At the forum Orbán said the valuable political lessons of the past decade could offer a basis for developing responses to the challenges of a new world order. Foreign policies based on democracy export are counter-productive, generating problems and destabilising the situation, he said, adding that everyone should understand the need of mutual respect for the cultural, religious and political traditions of nations. "It must be accepted that political systems different from ours can sometimes be more successful in economic terms, fight more effectively against poverty and be more competitive than ours," he said.

Belt and Road is an initiative based on mutual respect and the acceptance of cultural traditions. It grew to become the world's largest economic development project over the past few years and offers the right response to challenges in a changing world order, Orbán said.

Another lesson learnt from the past decade is that the power of demographics should not be underestimated, he said. When people see no perspective for making an advance, then they start seeking a new home. For this reason, the most developed countries in the world must take help where help is needed instead of importing problems, Orbán said. The Belt and Road Initiative gives an opportunity of growth to underdeveloped nations, so it gives the right response to the causes of migration, he said.

The third lesson learnt is that free trade without physical links is no more than empty rhetoric, Orbán said. Physically linking continents requires a large amount of money and effort, some amazing works of engineering, daring imagination and resolute political will, he said. The Belt and Road Initiative involves all this, he added.

The fourth lesson is a common east European experience, he said. In the past when East and West came face to face, central Europe always suffered, its economy failed to develop, it had no access to modern technology and at times even lost its freedom, Orbán said.

"But when East and West worked together, there was economic prosperity and we lived freely," he said, praising Belt and Road for its efforts to create points of cooperation between East and West instead of generating confrontation.

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