Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: MTI

Foreign minister presents 41,000 doses of vaccine to Czech Republic

Szijjarto: Hungary, Serbia gave most successful response to pandemic

Hungary and Serbia have mounted the most successful response in the economy and health care to the coronavirus pandemic and the economies of both countries have remained strong, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Friday.

Szijjarto said after a meeting of the Hungarian-Serbian economic mixed committee in Belgrade that neither Serbia, nor Hungary “viewed the issue of vaccines as an ideological or geopolitical issue but as a tool to save people’s lives”.

Thanks to the successful vaccination programmes, the two countries recognise each other’s vaccination certificates since late April, allowing citizens free movement between the two countries, he said.

Szijjarto said that while global trade had fallen by 9 percent last year, trade between Hungary and Serbia increased by 3 percent and another 16 percent increase was reported this year.

Thanks to the successful vaccination programme, the economy can now shift in focus, he added.

“Investments by Hungarian companies in Serbia are at an unprecedented high level and the successes of these companies in Serbia contribute to the further growth of the Hungarian economy,” he said. Thanks to the latest acquisition, OTP has become the second largest participant in Serbia’s bank sector and oil and gas company MOL holds a 20 percent stake in the fuels market, with Hungarian companies’ interest in Serbian investment opportunities staying strong, he added.

He said the Hungarian government had granted 20 billion forints (EUR 57m) support to 16 Hungarian companies for carrying out investment in Serbia following the pandemic and an economic development programme for Vojvodina helps more than 14,000 businesses.

He said he had agreed with his Serbian negotiating partner during the Belgrade visit to further expand links between the two countries and make crossing borders easier. A train service between Szeged and Subotica (Szabadka) will start operation next summer and a border crossing in Hercegszanto will be made suitable for cargo transport, he added.

He noted that an agreement had been signed in St Petersburg on Thursday about long-term gas supplies from Russia and added that this would mean large volumes of gas deliveries to be received from the direction of Serbia starting from the end of this year.

He reiterated the position that the European Union needs Serbia and countries in the southern part of central Europe to join the bloc.

“Europe has both economic and security interests in receiving Serbia as a full member of the EU and we will not stop demanding that the EU should make sufficiently intense efforts for Serbia’s integration,” he said, adding that the Western Balkans migration route was crossing Serbia and migration must be stopped.

Serbian Economy Minister Andelka Atanaskovic told the press conference that political relations between the two countries were extremely good but there was always room for further improvement.

Hungary has been among Serbia’s ten most important trading partners for years and the construction of the Belgrade-Budapest railway line will further contribute to this. She said it was one of the most important infrastructure projects and added that projects in water management, transport and environmental protection also strengthened relations.

After the meeting of the economic mixed committee, Szijjarto and European Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic signed a letter of intent to further strengthen bilateral relations and develop a Western Balkans capacity building scheme.

Foreign minister presents 41,000 doses of vaccine to Czech Republic

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto presented a consignment of 41,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine Hungary has lent to the Czech Republic to Andrej Babis, the neighbouring country’s prime minister, on Friday. The vaccines were handed over in the O2 Universum Centre for national vaccination in Prague.

Thanking the Hungarian government for its help, Babis praised bilateral relations and called Hungary a friend.

“Our Hungarian friends always came to help us if need be, we could always count on them,” Babis told reporters, noting that Hungary had donated 160 new ventilators and 200 hospital beds to help the Czech Republic’s Covid treatments.

Szijjarto said Hungary and the Czech Republic are friends and their economies are interconnected in multiple ways. The two countries’ citizens like to travel as visitors to each other’s country, he said.

As regards Covid-19 immunity certificate, Szijjarto noted that Hungary had concluded bilateral agreements with 11 countries on mutually accepting them and pledged further similar agreements with another two.

“Here we speak about important tourist destination countries,” he said, adding that inoculated citizens of those countries would be allowed to enter Hungary without requiring them to self-quarantine or present a negative Covid test.

Szijjarto denied online reports on certain Czech hotels banning entry of Hungarians inoculated with an eastern vaccine.

“This is not true, it is a lie,” Szijjarto said, adding that the Hungarian embassy in Prague double-checked the information and received a written statement calling it unauthentic.

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