Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: ‘Thriving’ Hungary-Serbia ties notch up four achievements

"Thriving" Hungarian-Serbian relations have notched up achievements in cooperation on the economy, energy security, illegal migration and national minorities, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after meeting Serbian ministers in Belgrade on Monday.

Szijjarto had talks with Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovic and Jadranka Joksimovic, the minister of European integration.

At a joint press conference held with Selakovic, Szijjarto said that relations that had once been antagonistic were now part of “a strategic alliance and characterised by friendship”. “We had to work a lot to achieve that,” Szijjarto said, adding that good relations had benefitted both Hungary and Serbia immensely, including the Hungarian community in Vojvodina and the Serbian community in Hungary.

In terms of economic cooperation, Szijjarto said the economies of Hungary and Serbia “contribute to one another’s growth very effectively”. He noted that bilateral trade last year hit a record 4 billion euros. In addition, he noted two large-scale transport development projects that include the ongoing construction of the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed rail link and the revamp of the Szeged-Subotica (Szabadka) rail line.

Szijjarto further noted the 20 billion forint Hungarian government grant awarded to 16 Hungarian companies, creating investments worth 40 billion forints in Serbia.

The minister called cooperation in energy security an important achievement without which “we would both be exposed to the supply crisis western Europe is suffering”. Szijjarto noted the interconnector operating between the two countries since last October had vast natural gas transmission capacity.

“So far Hungary has received over 700 million cubic metres of gas via that pipeline and we have been able to deliver several hundreds of millions of cubic metres of gas to Serbia,” Szijjarto said, adding that without that pipeline, the two countries would have faced serious gas supply difficulties.

Szijjarto said curbing migration had been the third big achievement, and both countries had taken joint action to combat mounting aggression of human traffickers. He said last year 122,000 illegal migrants were stopped on Hungary’s southern border. Hungary also helps Serbia protect its southern border with North Macedonia, he added.

The minister also lauded the treatment of the Hungarian national community in Vojvodina, which “enjoys the most rights” out of all the Hungarian national communities abroad. He attributed this to an understanding that Vojvodina Hungarians and Serbians in Hungary were “connected”, and both countries could grow stronger if their respective minorities did the same.

Szijjarto praised Hungary’s economic development programme in Vojvodina, adding that the programme would continue if the Fidesz government won the April 3 general election.

He noted that a general election will also be held in Serbia on April 3. The minister said that not only was the future of Hungary and Serbia at stake in the election but the future of Hungarians in Vojvodina and Serbs in Hungary, too.

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