Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Orbán: Hungary, Serbia can rely on each other

Hungary and Serbia can rely on each other, Hungary will give all the support to Serbia's European Union accession and when Hungary faces difficulties, it can count on Serbia, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Thursday after talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade.

Orbán told a joint press conference that historic experience was important and when it comes to Serbia’a EU accession, he took an approach based on the position of historic experience. At the time of Hungary’s EU integration, Poland had a key role in the region, he said.

Serbia is a key country for the stability of the Western Balkans, Orbán said. By supporting Serbia’s EU accession, Hungary supports the integration of the entire Western Balkans, he added.

Orbán said the pandemic had overshadowed the issue of mass migration but the old problem has re-emerged. The stability of the Western Balkans and its ability to protect against migration are essential also for Hungary’s security, he added.

Hungarian-Serbian cooperation has resulted in several serious successes, such as railway cooperation, 16 large investment projects at the time of the pandemic and setting up a gas interconnector, he said.

Concerning gas supplies, he said Hungary made every effort to set correct prices when Serbia was in a difficult position. Central European countries must understand that their shared long-term history should be given priority as against short-term interests, he said. “The winds of history may change at any time and any country may find itself in the position that it has to rely on its neighbour,” he added. The region cannot be stabilised unless the countries understand this, he added.

Orbán said figures of the past seven or eight years revealed a “great success story developing” in Serbia, with decreasing public debt, and new investments and development.

He said Hungarian-Serbian cooperation was based on sharing the same goals, to ensure that children live a better life than their parents did and both countries thinking along the lines of family and nation.

In response to a question, Orbán said the coronavirus pandemic was not yet over but the vaccination programme was successful in both Hungary and Serbia. The two countries have agreed on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and all border crossings have been reopened. Cooperation will be maintained, he added.

He said the EU suffered from a low level of trust concerning its future, with westerners having reached a very high level of the welfare state and they are uncertain of whether there is any way further.

As a result, there is great caution in the EU when it comes to large new initiatives, which has been termed as “enlargement fatigue”, he said. However, if enlargement is neglected, one of the most important neighbouring regions will be unstable and the EU will not gain new energies, its development will get stuck and it will disintegrate, he added.

Enlargement which is not possible without Serbia must be the most important project of the EU, Orbán said. It involves development and can carry Europe ahead, similarly to when the accession of central Europe brought energy to European cooperation, he added.

Vucic highlighted Hungary’s role in bringing about political and economic stability in the Western Balkans and thanked Hungary for its achievement that he said had been recognised by every country in the region.

He also highlighted Hungary’s contribution to improving Serbia’s relations with Vojvodina’s Hungarian community which he said had also bettered his country’s relations with Hungary.

Vucic noted that the volume of bilateral trade had come close to 2 billion euros during the period of the pandemic and saw a 23 percent increase this year. Hungarian companies implemented 16 major investment projects in Serbia last year, he said.

He thanked Hungary for its support to Serbia in its European integration endeavours.

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