Hungary has the best relationship with Serbia from among it neighbours

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

“From among the neighbouring countries, Hungary has the best diplomatic and economic relationship with Serbia, and economic cooperation with Belgrade is also the most significant from among the countries of the Western Balkans”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday following a session of the Hungarian-Serbian Joint Economic Committee.

The Committee discussed the development of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, the establishment of the Szeged-Szabadka-Baja railway line, the opening of new border crossing stations, the expansion of trade and economic relations, and the development and interconnection of the Hungarian and Serbian natural gas networks.

“Last year, bilateral trade flow was almost two billion euros, with a further increase of 32 percent during the first seven months of this year, thanks to which Hungarian exports (to Serbia) also achieved an increase of 19 percent”, Mr. Szijjártó, the Committee’s Hungarian Co-chair, highlighted. “Hungarian exports significantly exceed imports from Serbia”, he added.

“Bilateral trade flow was given further impetus by the Hungarian Government’s Vojvodina Economic Development Programme, within the framework of which the Hungarian Government signed funding agreements with applicants at a total value of 90 million euros with relation to 23 large, job-creating investment projects just a few days ago”, the Minister said.

Mr. Szijjártó said it was good news that following a bank acquisition Hungary’s OTP Bank is now the 7th most significant player on the Serbian banking market and has increased its market share to 5.7 percent. In addition, Hungarian oil company MOL has already realised 100 million euros of investments in Serbia and has grown to become the second most important company on the Serbian fuel market with 55 petrol stations and a 20 percent share of the market. The fact that Hungarian pharmaceuticals company Richter will soon be concluding an agreement with Serbia’s Ministry of Health that will enable one of the company’s most important products to be included on Serbia’s list of state-subsidised pharmaceuticals, will also represent a significant step forward.

Mr. Szijjártó announced that further agreements will be signed in the interests of facilitating bilateral economic and trade relations, with two new border crossing stations opening in 2018, for instance. The new border crossing stations connecting Bácsszentgyörgy and Rastina, and Kübekháza and Rábé, will mean the number of joint border crossing stations will increase to nine.

“Hungary and Serbia have been awarded three million euros in European Union funding for the planning of the Szeged-Szabadka-Baja railway line, and both parties hope that following the planning stage construction can also being on this railway line, which is also extremely important from an economic and national strategy perspective”, the Minister highlighted.

“Both Hungary and Serbia have concluded cooperation agreements with Gazprom, based on which there is a good chance that by the end of 2019 a gas corridor will be established that will contribute to greatly improving the energy security of both countries”, the Minister pointed out. This gas corridor will run via the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and transport Russian gas arriving in Turkey to Hungary via Bulgaria and Serbia, and by the end of 2019 an infrastructure capable of accepting 6 billion cubic metres of natural gas will have been established on the border between Hungary and Serbia.

Mr. Szijjártó highlighted the fact that Hungary is extremely appreciative of the way Serbia is treating the Hungarian community living in the country, and stressed that Vojvodina Hungarians don’t separate the two countries, but instead link them. “Many European Union member states could take a leaf out of Serbia’s book within the field of minority rights”, he added. “We are also highly appreciative of Serbia’s activities with regard to viewing the Hungarian community living here as a community that plays a strong role in developing bilateral relations”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined.

Serbian Economy Minister Goran Knežević drew attention to the fact that the Hungarian and Serbian parties are searching for new investment opportunities, in addition to which Hungarian companies are taking part in Serbian privatisation and infrastructure projects.

He also pointed out that the two parties will be holding a joint Cabinet meeting in Budapest in November, which in addition to members of the Serbian Government will also be attended by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, and at which the parties will also be aiming to realise the further improvement and expansion of relations.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)


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