Budapest, March 17 (MTI) – Hungary has constantly pushed for the lifting of EU sanctions against Belarus and is pleased to see that most of them have been lifted, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with his Belarusian counterpart in Budapest on Thursday.
The European Union’s competitiveness has slipped in recent years, which is why it is important to intensify economic relations with the bloc’s neighbours, including Belarus, Szijjártó told a press conference after the meeting.
EU-Belarusian cooperation could benefit both sides, Szijjártó said, arguing that Belarus could play a constructive role in resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
To maintain its competitive edge among regional economic integrations, the EU should work closer together with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Szijjarto said, adding, however that the EU is “drifting further and further away” from such cooperation. He said Belarus could act as a bridge between the two integrations, given that its primary trading partner is Russia (also an EEU member) and it is open to developing its ties with the EU.
The minister said Hungarian-Belarusian trade volume fell by 20 percent in 2015, and to turn this trend around Hungary’s Eximbank will open a 27 million euro credit line to support Hungarian companies doing business in Belarus.
He said the two countries would boost ties in the energy sector, calling Belarus an important transit country for Europe’s energy supply. Hungary and Belarus will also work together in nuclear technology, he added.
Szijjártó said Hungary supports relaxing visa rules between the EU and Belarus.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey said that open dialogue, rather than economic sanctions, is what helps resolve problems.
He named agriculture, the food, machinery and pharmaceutical industries as areas in which Hungary and Belarus could boost trade.
The two ministers signed an inter-ministry cooperation agreement before the press conference.