Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday thanked Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the Hungarian government’s donation to the costs of renovating Subotica’s (Szabadka) synagogue.
In a ceremony reopening the synagogue in the city which has a sizeable ethnic Hungarian minority, Vucic thanked Orbán, saying that without his personal support and Hungary’s financial contribution, “Serbia’s most magnificent building” would not have been refurbished.
“I am proud that after more than four decades, a new chapter can begin in the life of the synagogue,” he said.
Orbán said at the inauguration ceremony: “It is our moral duty to stand up for a Hungary and Europe in which Jews and Christians can live and practise their faiths without fear.” He said the inauguration sent the message that “this is the kind of world and the kind of Europe that we want to live in, that we represent and that we can protect.”
The Hungarian premier said that while Europeans today enjoy religious freedom, “if we allow Europe’s cultural subsoil to be changed, then others will write the future instead of us.”
He noted that the government had declared 2014 a Holocaust Memorial Year, and launched a programme to renovate synagogues. The government spent 10 billion forints (EUR 31,900) on the programme, he said.
The prime minister said there are “many places” where Jews and Christians face persecution, and such an inauguration could not take place, adding that there were also places in western Europe where churches and synagogues were being demolished instead of renovated.
Later, at a joint press conference, Orbán said Serbia had managed to align national pride and a commitment to territorial integrity with autonomy granted to its minorities, while at the same time ensuring and encouraging the functioning of their institutions.
Vucic said Hungarian-Serbian political and economic relations had reached a pinnacle. No unresolved issues hamper ties, which, he added, could serve as an example to other countries.
The president said Orbán’s personal efforts had been vital in elevating bilateral ties to such a high level. He added that Serbia’s policymakers had the same goal in mind, and cooperation between the two countries ensured the well-being of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia.
Featured image: MTI