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Economic relations between Hungary and Austria have intensified dynamically over the past seven years, President János Áder said after talks with his Austrian counterpart in Vienna. At a joint press conference with Alexander Van der Bellen, Áder noted that his first trip abroad as president had been to Austria. Several aspects of the two countries’ relations, including their economic ties, have progressed dynamically since then, he said. Austria is still one of Hungary’s major economic partners, Áder said, noting that it is the third largest foreign employer and investor in Hungary. Bilateral trade turnover was just under 11 billion euros last year, he added. Áder said he and Van der Bellen also discussed Hungary and Austria’s cooperation in fighting climate change. He said there are two forums scheduled for this year that will focus on the implementation of the Paris climate accord.

On another subject, the president said Hungary and Austria are divided over the use of nuclear energy. Whereas Austria opposes nuclear power, Hungary needs nuclear plants, Áder said, arguing that Hungary’s geographical characteristics differ from those of Austria. Áder pointed out to his colleague that both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN’s scientific body on nuclear energy say that the goals of the Paris accords cannot be met without nuclear power.

He said they had also discussed the question of EU enlargement and the situation of the Western Balkans, adding that he and Van der Bellen were in agreement on the need to integrate the countries in that region into the bloc. Asked about the situation of Hungarians working and living in Austria, Áder said he wished all of Hungary’s neighbouring countries guaranteed the rights and living conditions to their minorities that Austria does.

Van der Bellen also noted the two countries’ close relations, stressing that it was in their interests to commit their futures to a strong European Union. He said there are 80,000 Hungarians working and living in Austria. Van der Bellen said both he and Áder were committed to fighting climate change. He thanked Áder for having been the first to support his proposals for combatting climate change at last year’s UN climate conference in Katowice. The Austrian president spoke highly of Hungary’s leading role in the EU in IT developments, noting, at the same time, the two countries’ disagreement on nuclear power. He promised that Hungary and Austria would jointly celebrate the 30th anniversary of the dismantling of the Iron Curtain.

Both heads of state were asked to comment on the Hungarian government’s recently launched media campaign on immigration. According to Austrian news agency APA, Áder declined to comment. “Many elections have been held in Hungary over the course of my tenure in office (…) I have not commented on any campaign and I will hold myself to this again,” APA quoted the Hungarian president as saying. Van der Bellen said the claim that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker supports illegal migration was “unacceptable”. He called on member states not to allow the emergence of new rifts during the European parliamentary election campaign.