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Hungary, Slovakia benefit a lot from cooperation, foreign minister says

Both Hungary and Slovakia have benefitted a lot from their cooperation in the current rather tense global economic situation in which stable and predictable ties are of high value, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Budapest on Friday, after talks with Ivan Korcok, his Slovak counterpart.

Szijjarto told a joint press conference that both countries were facing threats and challenges posed directly by the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

“Both countries have taken in several hundreds of thousands of refugees. Hungary has offered entry to and catered for 800,000 people fleeing Ukraine and will continue to provide these forms of assistance as long as needed,” the minister said. He thanked the Hungarian charity organisations and their staff for their efforts provided in the largest ever humanitarian programme in the country’s history, also thanking the work of their Slovak counterparts.

Turning to economic issues, Szijjarto noted soaring inflation, energy prices and banking interests rates as the most pressing challenges, adding that all those factors “could easily trigger a global economic crisis”.

“There’s a lot of tension in the global economy, and one clear sign of it is coming at us in the form of an incredible international pressure that Hungary should back the introduction of a European global minimum tax,” Szijjarto said. Such a tax would however have “a tragic effect” on the European economy, including the Hungarian one, he said.

Szijjarto said that in the current tense global economic situation stable and predictable economic cooperation such as the one developed by Hungary and Slovakia over the past years must be particularly valued. He noted that bilateral trade last year reached a record 13 billion euros and increased in the first three months of 2022 by 49 percent.

On the topic of energy and challenges faced by the sector in both countries, Szijjarto noted similarities not only in their geographical and infrastructural situation but in their energy policies. “Nuclear energy for example plays an important role in Hungary and in Slovakia, too,” he said.

Both Hungary and Slovakia “have done their homework” as partners and have built their natural gas interconnectors, Szijjarto said, adding that its capacity was planned to be increased in the direction of Slovakia.

Concerning Ukraine, Szijjarto said the Hungarian government had expressed support for granting Ukraine candidate membership when most western European countries were still hesitating.

The minister said the Hungarian government does not oppose sending weapons to Ukraine. “But dictated by the country’s security interests, it has decided neither to send weapons nor to allow their transport directly through the country’s territory. Others may choose to decide otherwise and we will respect their decision”, he said.

Speaking about Hungary’s humanitarian efforts, Szijjarto said “it is not a problem that nobody has thanked us for the assistance, but we cannot accept that we are constantly being provoked and insulted by Ukrainian policy-makers.”

Commenting on the future of the Visegrad Group (V4) cooperation, the Hungarian foreign minister said that despite strong cooperation between the four countries, it cannot be ruled out that they disagree on certain issues. “But despite the differences of opinion, we will continue to respect each other’s viewpoint,” he said.

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