Budapest, March 16 (MTI) – Hungary’s trade with the Baltic states rose by 9 percent last year alone and doubled since 2010, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said at a business forum in Budapest on Wednesday.
In his closing remarks Szijjarto said economic ties are planned to be made stronger with the help of a 370 million euro credit line secured by Eximbank for cooperation between Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian and Hungarian companies.
Szijjártó noted that keeping the Schengen zone intact is a vital issue for all four states, as they are all “open economies”.
He said a company already present in Hungary with “British background and using an Estonian knowledge base” is soon to announce opening of a new service centre in Budapest, creating jobs.
On the subject of relations with Russia, the foreign minister said that Moscow is important as an economic and trading partner for all four countries and that he trusts EU-Russian relations would move along a positive track in terms of security policy, economic and trade ties.
Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand told the forum that bilateral trade between Estonia and Hungary totalled 257 million euros last year, and in her opinion, there was room for further growth.
Lithuanian deputy economy minister Rasa Noreikiene said relations among the Baltic states and Hungary were especially strong in rail and road transport as well as in the vehicle industry.
Latvian foreign ministry state secretary Andrejs Pildegovics said Latvia was interested in Hungary’s trade experiences with Asian countries, especially China.
Addressing a forum of diplomats from the Baltic states earlier in the day Szijjarto said Hungary and the Baltics have recently had to face a number of unexpected challenges, which he said could get even more difficult in 2016. It is in these challenging times that Hungary and the Baltics will mark the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of their diplomatic relations, he added.
Szijjártó said Hungary is proud to have contributed to Baltic airspace protection in 2015 and is prepared to continue this form of cooperation.
Szijjártó told reporters after addressing the diplomats that by the time Estonia takes over the rotating presidency of the European union in January 2018, Hungary intends to have a diplomatic presence in Tallinn that will make cooperation with the Estonian presidency easier. Hungary closed its embassy in Tallinn in 2014, merging it with the embassy in Helsinki as a cost-cutting measure. Tallinn currently has a Hungarian institute where cultural diplomacy tasks are carried out.
He said NATO enlargement could be one of the most effective answers for the alliance’s challenges from the east. Hungary and the Baltics fully support Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Macedonia’s preparations for joining the organisation. Regarding EU border protection he said neither Hungary nor the Baltics accept mandatory migrant quotas. Stronger ties with the countries involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme could make the regions east of Europe safer, he added.