Peter Szijjarto (left) and Nikola Selakovic in Belgrade – Photo: Facebook

Covid passports should not discriminate against anyone, minister says

Szijjarto: Many lives saved thanks to Eastern vaccines

The lives many more Hungarians and Serbs have been saved thanks to Eastern vaccines bought by the two countries, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Belgrade after talks with counterpart Nikola Selakovic on Tuesday.

Szijjarto said neither government had made the vaccine into an ideological issue and both countries trusted their own experts.

“Both the Serbian and Hungarian governments paid heed to common sense,” he said. “We set ourselves the single goal of protecting the lives and health of our citizens.”

Meanwhile, the minister said Hungary is involved in talks on Covid passports, adding that these “should not discriminate against anyone”. The validity of passports should not only be based on the approval of vaccines by the European Medicines Agency but also on the emergency approval given by national authorities.

“Hungary wouldn’t accept only one form of approval being recognised…” he said.

Answering a question about the suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in several countries, Szijjarto said Hungary was also monitoring the effect of the vaccine, and its experts would decide on any further steps to be taken.

He said both Serbia and Hungary were top of the European vaccination rankings thanks to their willingness to buy Eastern vaccines.

Selakovic said Serbia saw no obstacle to allowing free movement between the two countries if travellers are in possession of a vaccination certificate.

At a joint press conference, Szijjarto also said the two countries have demonstrated of the past year what good neighbourly ties look like, with resulting mutual benefits.

Hungary’s changing economy has been greatly influenced by cooperation with Serbia, he said, adding that Hungarian companies were now making successful investments abroad. The government, he noted, has given support to six Hungarian companies so far for their investments in Serbia totalling 13 billion forints.

Szijjarto also praised Belgrade’s “exemplary attitude” towards Serbia’s Hungarian community, saying both countries regarded Vojvodina Hungarians as a resource and a community connecting Serbs and Hungarians.

The minister also noted “a new chapter” in Hungary’s energy supply starting in October thanks to a 15km interconnector over the Hungary-Serbia border, completing Hungary’s national gas pipeline network.

Selakovic welcomed “extremely good relations” between the two governments and also between individual politicians, contributing to good bilateral ties. This year, the sixth Hungarian-Serbian government summit will focus on the strategic partnership between the two countries, he noted.

He referred to joint projects such as the impending construction of the Belgrade-Budapest rail line and the renovation of the Szeged-Subotica-Baja rail line.

He thanked Hungary for its help in Serbia’s fight against the coronavirus epidemic and he also expressed gratitude for Hungary’s continued support for Serbia’s European integration.

The two foreign ministers also agreed on Tuesday to maintain a joint diplomatic and consular office in Santiago de Chile, Valletta and Lusaka.

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