Cooperation between East and West is in Hungary’s interest in terms of security as well as for political and economic reasons, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told a press conference in Minsk, after talks with his counterpart Vladimir Makei. Central Europe is interested in an East-West cooperation based on “pragmatism, common sense and mutual respect”. “We, Hungarians, do not urge that cooperation because it is in the interest of a larger power but because it is in our own interests,” he said.
Hungary is a member of the European Union, while Belarus belongs to the Eurasian Economic Union, which makes their cooperation even more important, Szijjártó said, adding that their bilateral relations could serve as a sound basis for closer ties between the two blocs.
Answering a question, Szijjártó said that “the EU will be strong if it has the ability to build cooperation, strong friendships and alliances outside the bloc, too”. He added that the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme should be reinforced and “it should be made clear that it is difficult to build a partnership by way of sanctions”. “We are seeking a more pragmatic cooperation based more on mutual respect,” he said, adding that “Budapest has always been for removing sanctions against Belarus”.
During his talks, Szijjártó signed an agreement on mutual protection for investments between the two countries, and said that the accord would promote bilateral business cooperation. The Hungarian government has opened a 64 million dollar credit line with Eximbank, while Eximbank has set up a 10 million dollar credit line with the Investment Bank of Belarus to finance such projects. Concerning actual business activities, Szijjártó mentioned Hungarian pharma company Richter’s increasing market share in Belarus, a food processing plant to be constructed jointly in Belarus, as well as Swiss engineering company Stadler building motor trains in both countries for use in Hungary. Szijjártó noted that the turnover of bilateral trade reached 200 million dollars in the first 10 months of last year, 20% up from the same period in 2017.
The foreign minister thanked Belarus for lifting the visa requirement for Hungarian visitors, and added that the Hungarian government “ensures the highest benefits to Belarusian visa applicants under Schengen rules”.