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The time has come to strengthen Hungarian-Serbian economic cooperation

During the press conference, which related to the meeting between the two governments and was jointly held with Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, Mr. Orbán said that analyses indicate that Serbia is on the threshold of a major period of growth. The figures speak for themselves, he added – though people find it hard to believe that better times will come, as “optimism is not a natural characteristic” among Central European people. Serbia’s boom is imminent, he continued, and consequently there are now far greater economic opportunities for investors than at any earlier time.

He said that in recent years a significant amount of Hungarian capital has accumulated, which is in search of investment opportunities. There are plans to invest some of this in Serbia, and now fruitful economic relations can also be created in southern Serbia.

The Prime Minister stated that as the political conditions are now in place, practical measures should be enacted, the language of business should come to the fore, and projects which serve the best interests of the two countries should be implemented.

The Prime Minister told his audience that Hungary has both good and bad experiences with foreign investors. The good experiences have involved projects in which investors checked their plans against Hungary’s economic strategy, and implemented long-term investments which were profitable and were accepted by the Hungarian people. This is also Hungary’s approach, and Hungarian investment will only be made in areas which serve Serbia’s best interests and are tied to the country’s economic strategy, he said.

At the same time, Mr. Orbán asked the Serbs to encourage Serbian investors to target Hungary, since although at this point in time Hungarian economic figures are better than those of the Serbian economy, over time this situation will equalise, and there should be balanced bilateral relations between the two countries. The Hungarian financial system is at the disposal of Serbian businesses, he said, enabling them to implement successful and tangible projects in Hungary, and the Hungarian government will support these projects.

In answer to a question, he pointed out that today Hungary is economically successful, and it therefore has resources which can be used to support Hungarian or Hungarian-Serbian joint projects in Serbia. He added that Hungary wants to become involved now in Serbia’s prospective success, which in three to four years’ time will be spoken about as something which is extremely natural.

The Prime Minister said that Eximbank has opened a credit line of EUR 61 million for Serbian and Hungarian businesses. This is not a final figure, however: once it is spent it will be extended, meaning that there will be no financial obstacles to Hungarian-Serbian cooperation, and all the conditions for thriving businesses will be in place.

He also highlighted that Hungary will support – with personnel, experts and financial resources – all Serbia’s measures aimed at stopping illegal migration. This is because Serbia’s stability is in the best interests of Hungary, Central Europe and the whole of Europe. He added that a good neighbour is always the best investment, and therefore Hungary has an interest in Serbia’s advancement. He also stressed the importance of the joint efforts being made against terrorism and in the interest of security.

Mr. Orbán stressed that Serbia regards the Hungarians living in its country as an issue close to its heart, and its policy supporting minorities is exceptionally positive in a European context. At the same time, Serbians living in Hungary may also rely on the Hungarian government. While fewer Serbs live in Hungary than Hungarians in Serbia, he said, “this is not an issue of numbers”, but of principle, and a matter of honour. Therefore the Hungarian government will always support the Serbian community, and will also guarantee the financial aspects of this, he said.

The Prime Minister mentioned that earlier the leaders had viewed the Prosek-Bancarevo motorway, which is currently under construction; although this road is being built in Serbia, it is also important for Hungary.

Mr. Orbán also told the press that two more border crossing stations will be opened, and he further stressed the importance of cooperation in the field of gas supply. At present Serbia has access to gas through Hungary, and not once has the country’s gas supply been jeopardised on account of Hungary. Hungary agrees to maintain this state of affairs in the future, he said, adding that if Serbia wants to store gas, it can do so in Hungary, where the entire system is available to it. He remarked that while Brussels has for the time being vetoed the South Stream gas pipeline, it is in the best interests of both countries for this pipeline to be built sooner or later.

Before the press conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó and minister without portfolio for Serbia’s accession to the European Union Jadranka Joksimović signed an annual action plan for 2016–2017; this constitutes an annex to the Hungarian-Serbian memorandum of understanding on promotion of Serbia’s accession talks. Meanwhile Minister for National Development Miklós Seszták and Serbia’s Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlović signed an agreement on navigation of the River Tisza.