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Policy for communities abroad ‘still at heart’ of Hungarian foreign policy, minister says

Policy for Hungarian communities abroad still is at the heart of state foreign policy, Peter Szijjarrto, the foreign minister, said on Tuesday.

The government has given support for more than 60,000 economic development applications in Hungarian-inhabited areas of neighbouring countries, sparking 424 billion forints of investments, he told a meeting of parliament’s national cohesion committee.

He said it was the government’s duty to put the fate of national communities living beyond the border at the heart of foreign policymaking.

The minister said the government had turned to the communities to ask them what they needed instead of dictating their needs from Budapest, and their answer was that economic development was the foundation “for everything”, so economic development programmes were launched in all neighbouring countries but for Austria.

The state has ploughed 216 billion forints into 60,121 economic development projects, triggering 424 billion forints of investments in Hungarian-inhabited areas of neighbouring states, he noted, breaking it down to 14,263 applications in Vojvodina, 34,466 in Transcarpathia, 6,084 in Transylvania, 3,837 in Slovakia, 671 in Slovenia, and 800 in the Drava basin.

These, he said, had created jobs and tax revenues in neighbouring states, in turn strengthening their economies as well as Hungarian national communities, a “typical win-win situation”.

Everyone, he said, benefitted if ties between Hungary, and neighbouring countries were “good”. Hungarian foreign policy always aimed to maintain the best possible relations with neighbouring countries, he added.

Progress had been made in relations with all neighbouring countries with the exception of Ukraine, he said, noting long-standing tensions, since 2015, due to “the continuous disenfranchisement of Transcarpathian Hungarians”. Their rights should be restored, he said, a position that the government has maintained over the past eight years.

In this respect, Szijjarto referred to “broad political consensus” on the matter which was “unique in Hungarian politics”.

He said that at the outbreak of the war the government had bracketed off the issue but had to change its position in reaction to laws passed in Kiev last year that put the Hungarian minority at a further disadvantage.

Hungary, he said, did not foresee backing Ukraine’s European Union integration efforts if rights were not returned to the Hungarian national community. He added that Transcarpathian Hungarians could continue to count on the support of the government.

Szijjarto said border permeability was “a key issue”, and rules should allow travel across borders of Hungary and neighbouring countries “in a civilised manner”, with the shortest possible waiting times at highest possible frequency.

Since 2010, 33 border crossing points have been opened and it is now possible to cross the border at 116 points, he noted. Development schemes are being undertaken in this respect, too, he added.

On the subject of supporting domestic companies making cross-border investments in Hungarian-inhabited areas, he noted that 231 such investments were under way supported by the government.

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