The joint Hungary-Serbia government summit got under way on Friday with a meeting of Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, and Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbia’s EU affairs minister.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that Szijjártó emphasised Hungary’s commitment to supporting Serbia’s European Union integration endeavours, “whose success we regard the most important element of securing stability in the Western Balkans”. The ministers agreed that the Hungarian government would continue to assist Serbia with its EU negotiations.
Hungary, he added, fully supports the Bulgarian EU Presidency in opening as many negotiating chapters as possible with Serbia in the first half of the year.
Thanks to good political relations, economic and trade cooperation between Hungary and Serbia is also positive, Szijjártó told journalists. “Political cooperation between Hungary and Serbia has never been as good as it is now,” he said. The efforts of the current Serbian president must be recognised for “steps taken towards historical reconciliation between the two countries,” he added.
In 2016 bilateral trade amounted to 1.9 billion euros and reached 2.3 billion euros in the first 11 months of last year, the minister noted. Trade is expected to reach 2.5 billion euros by the end of this year, he added.
Meanwhile, as part of its economic development programme geared towards Vojvodina, the Hungarian government has supported 6,200 bidders with a total of 10 billion forints, Szijjártó said. This programme has benefitted the economy of Vojvodina as a whole and strengthened the local Hungarian community, and the government plans to continue it with the approval of the Serbian government, he added.
Szijjártó said the two governments were working together on four infrastructure projects.
He noted that the upgrade of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line was already under way along the Serbian section while Hungary has invited public procurement tenders for the upgrade on its own side. More than thirty companies have expressed interest in bidding for the project, the minister said.
Szijjártó said Hungarian companies are also involved in a variety of road construction projects in Serbia.
The planning stage has been completed for the reconstruction of a Szeged-Subotica (Szabadka)-Baja railway line and the two governments have applied for EU funding for the project, he said. Hungary and Serbia are also set to begin planning the upgrade of a Szeged-Bácsalmás-Baja railway line, Szijjártó added.
He said the two countries on Friday would sign an agreement on a 10 million euro investment in a Hungarian-Serbian food processing company in southern Serbia.
As regards energy cooperation, Szijjártó noted that Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria have all signed agreements with Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom, under which Hungary will have the capacity to receive 6-8 billion cubic metres of gas via the Balkan corridor following infrastructure upgrades.
Answering a question on another subject, Szijjártó said “it has been clear for a long time” that US financier George Soros “doesn’t like” the fact there are countries in Europe that are unwilling to give up their national identities. These countries consider it important for member states to strengthen and, in the process, make the European Union stronger, too.
Featured image: MTI