Szijjarto: Europe-Africa economic ties ‘must be developed’
Szijjarto noted his visit was the first a Hungarian foreign minister has made to the west African country, a ministry statement said, and he called his attendance of a bilateral business forum in Freetown at the head of a delegation of business and academic leaders “a great honour”.
He said Hungary was committed to concluding mutually beneficial agreements.
It is in Hungary’s interest, he added, to support the stability and economic development of African states; a partly selfish interest, he added, since the more stable and developed these regions are, the fewer illegal migrants make their way to Europe. Besides, countries will not lose their talented young people either, he said.
Szijjarto noted that a bilateral economic cooperation agreement was recently signed, and an economic mixed committee may meet soon. Also, talks are under way on concluding an investment protection agreement, he added.
Hopefully a planned water management agreement can be concluded soon, he said, noting that three of eleven company heads accompanying him represent the area which is Hungary’s most internationally competitive sector.
On the agenda are the construction of a water purification plant in Sierra Leone and several other projects, expected to be sealed during the day, he said.
Other areas of cooperation include agriculture and the food industry, as well as the health and IT sectors, and construction.
Each year, 50 students from Sierra Leone can study at Hungarian universities with a scholarship, and 590 have applied for places this year, he noted.
Speaking at a joint press conference later on Friday with David J. Francis, his Sierra Leone counterpart, Szijjarto emphasised the importance of preserving Africa’s stability despite the negative effects of the war in Ukraine being felt globally.
The armed conflict is causing serious problems worldwide, whether it be in Ukraine’s neighbourhood or tens of thousands of kilometres away, Szijjarto said. The ones paying the price of the war worldwide are those who are not responsible for it and have nothing to do with it, the minister said.
Skyrocketing prices and food supply issues are causing serious problems for several African countries, which could lead to more mass migration waves, Szijjarto said, adding that this could lead to security challenges for Europe.
Another reason why it is important to establish peace in Ukraine as soon as possible is because Europe would be incapable of coping with two security crises simultaneously under the current circumstances, he said.
Hungary wants peace as soon as possible despite the pressure being put on it, Szijjarto said. Hungary understands Africa’s concerns over and aversion to the “dramatic impacts” of the conflict, he said, adding that the Hungarian government had an interest in preserving the continent’s stability, partly with a view to preventing more migration waves. It is therefore in Hungary’s interest to develop its economic partnership with Sierra Leone, he said. Szijjarto announced that Hungary will contribute 3 million forints (EUR 8,000) to the renovation of a local school attended by Christian and Muslim students.
In response to a question, Szijjarto said Hungary and Sierra Leone’s relationship was an equal partnership based on mutual respect.
He said there was often an absence of mutual respect in global politics, and it was “frustrating” when the leader of the European Union delegation to Sierra Leone made remarks that could be considered interference in the country’s internal affairs.
He said Hungarians had “too much experience” in being criticised and lectured on “how we should do our own things in Hungary”. “But we believe the Hungarian people are mature enough to make their own decisions on what kind of life they would like to live in Hungary,” he added.