Viktor Orbán (l) and Aleksandar Vucic – Photo: MTI

Hungary-Serbia relations ‘at historic best’, minister says

Hungary-Serbia relations are at their historic best, as ethnic Hungarian communities beyond the borders represent a resource in cooperation with neighbouring countries, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The ministry cited Peter Szijjarto telling a press conference after meeting Balint Pasztor, head of the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (VMSZ), that ethnic Hungarians were a focus point for Hungary’s foreign policy. This is why an ethnic Hungarian community leader gets invited to the meeting of ambassadors every year, which has been the case also this year, the foreign minister said.

He congratulated Pasztor on his party’s performance at the elections in Serbia in December and said the results represented a great achievement, especially in the current period full of challenges.

“Serbia, Vojvodina and the VMSZ prove together that it is a correct foreign policy strategy to develop as good relations with neighbouring countries as possible,” said Szijjarto. “Because the better the relations are with a neighbouring country, the better the situation of ethnic Hungarians living there will be,” he added.

“Vojvodina Hungarians are proof that it is correct to consider Hungarian communities beyond the borders as a resource in building good bilateral relations,” Szijjarto said.

He said that in planning its foreign policy strategy, the government always gives priority to building good relations with neighbouring states and always stands up for ethnic Hungarian communities living there.

The foreign minister highlighted VMSZ’s role in developing Hungarian-Serbian cooperation, pointing out the alliance’s proposal on a comprehensive economic development programme in Serbia’s northernmost region. He noted that the Hungarian government has so far supported 14,000 local businesses with 80 billion forints (EUR 203m) that has generated investments worth 170 billion forints, and pledged the continuation of the programme.

Szijjarto said that cross-border infrastructure also played an important role in bilateral relations, which is why on VMSZ’s request a decision had been made to keep the Roszke-Horgos 2 border crossing open 24 hours a day. Additionally, the development of a border crossing at Hercegszanto will be started in the near future, with the help of Interreg resources, he said.

Szijjarto also said that during the upcoming EU presidency, Hungary’s government will focus on speeding up EU enlargement and fighting illegal migration.

“Hungary has always stood on Serbia’s side when it comes to EU enlargement, and would like to have Serbia as a member of the EU as soon as possible, which would also serve the interest of Vojvodina Hungarians,” he said.

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