Budapest, May 7 (MTI) – Cooperation between Hungary and Romania should be rational and disputes over minorities should remain grounded, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after talks with his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu.
Hungary is committed to resolving disputes concerning minorities in line with European norms, he told a press conference in Budapest on Thursday.
He said the fact should not be concealed that there are contested issues in bilateral relations. Relations between neighbouring countries in central Europe do go along with a lot of sensitive issues, but these countries depend on each other, just as their successes depend on one another, Szijjarto said.
Concerning Hungary-Romania relations, he said that the mixed committee for minority affairs has not held a session since 2011, but he and his Romanian counterpart agreed at their meeting in Budapest that the body’s co-chairs would continue to coordinate on the most crucial issues and convene the next session of the committee as soon as possible.
Aurescu stressed the need for dialogue and consensus in bilateral relations, as well as the pragmatic discussion of differences in standpoints. There should be a solution found for the sensitive issues, and the two sides must seek new possibilities in bilateral cooperation, he said. The Romanian foreign minister also stressed the need for an open approach to settling minority issues.
Regarding the mixed minority affairs committee, he said protocols had not yet been finalised. Paragraphs and provisions to be included in the document must reflect the interests of the two countries and their minorities, he said, adding that a unilateral approach must be abandoned to give way to the guiding principle of consensus-seeking.
Szijjarto said that it is the Hungarian government’s task and responsibility to support Hungarian communities beyond the borders in achieving their endeavours. This will be its guiding principle in discussing Romanian measures concerning that country’s minorities. In this spirit, work will continue in the relevant mixed committee, he added.
The Hungarian foreign affairs and trade minister emphasised the importance of bilateral economic relations, highlighting that Romania is the third most important market for Hungary’s exports.
The Romanian foreign minister also had talks with Jozsef Tobias, the leader of the opposition Socialist Party. He said it was for him important “to meet representatives of the democratic opposition.”
Speaking at a joint press conference after their meeting, the two politicians emphasised the importance of dialogue. Tobias criticised the Hungarian government for its conduct of “sending messages and ultimatums” to the Romanian side. Outstanding issues should instead be resolved through dialogue, within an institutional framework, he said. As neighbours and members of the EU, the two countries must work together in cooperation, and this also defines which values to subscribe to, Tobias said.
“The choice is either the West or the East,” he said.
Romania regards Hungary as a strategic partner, Aurescu said, adding that both countries have common interests and endeavours in the European Union and in NATO as well. He said he was interested to hear the opinion of the Socialist leader concerning the thrust of Hungarian foreign policy.
The (Fidesz) chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Zsolt Nemeth, also met Aurescu on Thursday and expressed appreciation that the Romanian foreign minister had taken up bilateral dialogue. Nemeth also noted that it had been agreed to establish a bi-directional gas interconnector between the two countries.
After his talks, Nemeth told MTI that it was a matter of concern that in the past few years — especially under the left-wing government of Romania — high-level dialogue had become “pronouncedly stuck”. Aurescu’s current visit shows that he is open to continuing dialogue in the future, he said, adding that the change at the level of head of state in Romania served as a good basis for future cooperation.
He said unresolved issues could be sorted out through negotiation, and coordination on minority issues should be pursued. The mixed committee on minority affairs would be the most suitable forum for doing so, he added.