Viktor Orbán (l) and Aleksandar Vucic – Photo: PMO (archive)

Hungary, Serbia can only be successful together, PM says

Serbs can only be successful by working together with Hungarians and vice versa, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to Serbian news agency Tanjug.
9. December 2023 5:46

He said in the interview published on Friday that Hungary, a Christian, Catholic country, had succeeded building “fruitful” relations with Serbia, noting issues on which they could work to the countries’ mutual benefit, such as the European integration of Serbia, the situation in Kosovo, the Hungarian national minority in Vojvodina and Hungary’s position in the European Union.

Orbán said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had taken a “bigger risk” by committing to good relations between Hungarians and Serbs because there was a larger ethnic Hungarian community in Serbia than the Serb community in Hungary. He said the large Hungarian community in Vojvodina posed a significant legal, intellectual and political challenge because it meant having to find a way to coexist with the national minorities of a neighbouring country.

He said this was not an easy matter, noting there were very few positive responses to this challenge throughout Europe. He praised Vucic for having managed to find an answer with “very modern … European, but at the same time, Christian foundations to this question”. Orbán said Vucic considered Hungarians a community that contributed to Serbia’s success, rather than a burden, challenge or danger.

Orbán said this approach had proven successful, and today, all Serbs — “even the extremist nationalist Serbs” — saw that it works.

He said Hungarians had contributed significantly to the two countries’ shared success, adding that there was no reason to attack Hungarians or to “play the anti-Hungarian card in Serbia’s domestic politics”.

The prime minister said it was important that it was the Serbs and the ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina who first started cooperating, arguing that they knew each other well and had understood the advantages of good cooperation. The Serbs and Hungarians living in Vojvodina, he added, had been the ones to prove that cooperation was better than animosity. Orbán said it would have been harder to establish the good relations between the two countries without the minorities.

As regards the European integration of the Western Balkan countries, Orbán said it was unfair that their accession talks with the European Union had been going on for years, while Ukraine would suddenly start its own accession talks for political reasons. He said European leaders failed to understand the strategic importance of Serbia and the Western Balkans, adding he considered it his mission to help the EU understand the significance of Serbia and the Balkans, “and what is at stake”.

Orbán said the problem was that the EU did not understand that it needed Serbia more than Serbia needed the EU, arguing that Serbia also had other options and more room for manoeuvre, and could choose the European or a different strategic path.

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