Spain is an important partner for Hungary, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with Josep Borrell, his Spanish counterpart, in Budapest on Monday, noting that both countries are members of the European Union and NATO.
After the talks, Szijjártó said Hungary has supported and will continue to support Spain’s territorial integrity given that Hungary itself is “sensitive to such issues in light of its history”.
Borrell extended an invitation to Szijjártó for talks on infrastructure development in Hungary, particularly regarding Hungarian plans to introduce high-speed rail services.
Szijjártó noted that Spanish is taught in more than a hundred Hungarian schools and there are Spanish courses at four universities.
In recent years, foreign ministry officials from each country have participated in a diplomatic exchange programme.
He said Spanish and Hungarian responses to the historical challenges faced by the EU are the same in some areas while Hungary thinks differently as regards others. But divergent views can be managed through dialogue and mutual respect rather than conflict, he added.
Hungary does not want to host illegal migrants and instead emphasises the importance of protecting the external borders and the nation’s sovereign rights in this area, but both countries attach great importance to African development programmes, he said, adding that Hungary is offering its water management resources accordingly.
Szijjártó also said Hungary’s expenditure of more than 1 billion euros on protecting the EU’s external borders was a form a solidarity.
Meanwhile, he said the role of Spanish companies in enhancing the performance of the Hungarian economy was growing, especially when it came to Spanish automotive suppliers and participants in the hotel sector. Further, another 26 Spanish trams will arrive in Budapest in February, he noted.
Spain is Hungary’s 14th most important trading partner, with trade turnover of 4.5 billion euros. Fully 250 Spanish companies employ more than 4,500 Hungarians, he added.
Hungarian investments have also begun to appear in Spain, Szijjártó said, noting developments in the natural gas and the pharmaceutical markets.
Spanish tourists are 11th on Hungary’s list of most frequent visitors and their number rose by 9 percent in the first ten months of the year, exceeding 160,000.
Borrell said discussions would focus on how Spain can contribute towards the development of Hungarian infrastructure such as the rail network.
Borrell said Spaniards and Hungarians should strive to understand each other and bridge the gap between East and West.
Asked by a journalist about demonstrations currently taking place in Budapest, Szijjártó said freedom of expression was a singularly important democratic right, but at the same time he condemned violence in the strongest terms. He added that foreign press coverage of the situation in Hungary was “pathetic lies”.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also received Borrell.
Featured image: MTI