Budapest, December 30 (MTI) – The ongoing transformation of Hungary’s foreign policy aimed at enforcing the country’s economic interests more effectively has reached the halfway point, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said in an interview to MTI.
“The world has changed a lot and this means Hungary’s foreign policy must change both institutionally and in its approach,” the minister, who entered office in late September, said.
The government has already carried out the biggest change, namely integrating the institutions overseeing external economic relations and cultural diplomacy into the foreign ministry’s structure, he said. All institutional conditions are now in place for Hungary to achieve its goals of taking a leading position in the EU in terms of the export-GDP ratio and the contribution of industry to the national economy. Hungary can also now assume poll position in central Europe in terms of per capita direct foreign capital investment, he said.
Szijjarto said that Hungary should pursue a pragmatic foreign policy.
No one blames the United States for maintaining close economic cooperation with China or any western European nation for fostering good ties with countries in the Far East, he said. Yet cooperation between China and central Europe is a target of criticism even if China’s trade turnover with the 16 CEE countries falls short of its trade with Italy, he argued.
The minister said that ethnic Hungarian communities in neighbouring countries have an interest in smooth relations between Hungary and its neighbours. Common achievements may build a degree of confidence, enabling these nations to resolve what seem to be tough disputes, he said.
Among achievements with Slovakia, Szijjarto mentioned the construction of new border-crossing points and more intense economic links between border regions.
Romania is a strategic partner for Hungary and its second biggest export market, trailing only Germany, he said, adding that further efforts would be required to bring about tangible improvements in the situation of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian community.
Szijjarto called Hungarian-Serbian relations “harmonious”, noting that all fields of cooperation had benefitted from recent historic reconciliation.
The minister stressed the need to settle the Russian-Ukrainian conflict through negotiations as soon as possible. A rapid, negotiated settlement also lies in the interest of Europe which, in the long term, needs to cooperate with Russia “in a correct way, on the basis of respect for one another and for international law,” he said.
Szijjarto called Visegrad Four cooperation a major resource for Hungary, all the more so since central Europe would, he said, surely remain an engine of growth in Europe.
Concerning EU affairs, Szijjarto said that with the new election of a new leadership Europe had finally got a chance to concentrate on long-term efforts to regain its competitiveness and establish strategic cooperation with the fastest-growing regions of the world.
Szijjarto said it was regrettable that the South Stream gas pipeline project had been scrapped. Hungary now needs to find new sources to ensure the security of its energy supplies, he said.
He reiterated that the Hungarian-Russian deal on upgrading the Paks nuclear power plant fully complied with the EU regulations, there would be no need for any EU interference.
Szijjarto said that one should not expect the policy of eastern opening yield spectacular achievements overnight. He added, however, that Hungarian exports to China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Egypt and Morocco had increased.