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Economy minister meets German counterpart in Berlin

Marton Nagy, Hungary's national economy minister, has met with Robert Habeck, Germany's minister of economic affairs and climate change, as well as with state secretaries Florian Toncar and Heiko Thoms.

Talks focused on the German economy’s prospects and competitiveness, as well as car-making with a focus on electric vehicles, the economy ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement quoted Nagy as highlighting Germany as one of Hungary’s main economic partners. In 2023, Germany was the country’s largest trading partner, accounting for 24 percent of Hungary’s foreign trade turnover, he said. German companies “are the most dominant investors” in Hungary, with their capital investments totalling 18.7 billion euros in 2022, equalling 18.6 percent of Hungary’s FDI portfolio, he added.

Hungary has a vested interest in a strong European and Germany economy, Nagy said, adding that the European economies must contend with the economic boom in the US and China.

He added that European competitiveness would be a central topic during the upcoming Hungarian EU presidency. He called for greater digitisation and more focused subsidies, adding that a new industrial strategy was needed based on input from the various sectors.

The minister said the Hungarian government had reacted in time to the spread of EVs, with 21 projects now linked to the sector. Those projects, some of them completed and others in the construction phase, are worth a combined 16 billion euros, he said. Fully 25 percent of Hungary’s exports are batteries and electric cars, he said, adding that “the future of Hungary lies in green energy”.

Nagy noted, however, that electro-mobility needed new momentum, and called for an EU-level subsidy programme. Increased focus should be paid to cutting red tape and improving the charging infrastructure, including provision of individual chargers, the ministry said in its statement.

Later in the day, the minister met executives of German car makers BMW, Audi and Mercedes in Berlin, his ministry said in a statement. He held talks with BMW VP Glenn Schmidt, Audi Head of Government Affairs Brian Ramp and Mercedes-Benz Group board member Jorg Burzer, as well as with Hildegard Muller, who heads the German Association of the Automotive Industry.

The sides addressed the future of electric vehicle production, the impact of international trends on the automotive industry and potential challenges and opportunities posed by regulatory issues. They discussed the planned ban on internal combustion engines from 2035 and stressed that agreements on earlier EU regulation needed to be revisited.

They agreed that EVs were “the future of Europe” in which cooperation between Hungary and Germany’s automotive industry played an “important role”.

All three of Germany’s premium car makers already have or are building manufacturing capacity in Hungary, while four of the biggest Asian battery makers have picked Hungary for production bases.

The Hungarian government, as well as car makers and the German government, are opposed to punitive tariffs on Chinese EVs, the ministry said in a statement. Protectionism is not the solution; progress requires global competition, it added.

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