Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that it was “good news” for Hungary, a “medium-sized country with an extremely open economy”, that its relations with China were based on mutual respect and were at “an all-time high”. At a joint press conference after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Budapest, Szijjártó said political, economic, trade and cultural ties between Hungary and China were “extremely good”. He said Hungary had worked to get to this point in its ties with China, emphasising the importance of bilateral cooperation.
Having accomplished the goals established over the last several years, it is time Hungary and China set new ones for their cooperation, the foreign minister said. Speaking at the second meeting of the Chinese-Hungarian Belt and Road working group, Szijjártó said the two countries had successfully accomplished the goals established at the first meeting in terms of infrastructure, trade, financial cooperation and human relations.
Expanding on the achievements of bilateral cooperation, Szijjártó noted that there are now two direct flights operating between Hungary and China, the total value of investments by Chinese companies in Hungary has reached 4.5 billion dollars and the Hungarian government has signed strategic cooperation pacts with seven Chinese companies. Further, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Hungary has increased four-fold and the two countries have launched their first joint university programme. Szijjártó noted that China was now Hungary’s top trading partner outside the European Union.
Now, he said, Hungary and China must focus on establishing further links between them, intensifying their financial cooperation, eliminating obstacles to trade and boosting human relations. In terms of specific goals, Szijjártó said Hungary and China would have to sign the loan agreement for the upgrade of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line before the end of the year, launch more direct flights and joint university programmes and create the possibility for secondary school students in Hungary to take final exams that are accredited in China. He said two major Chinese banks were looking to establish headquarters in Hungary, adding that this would boost trade and economic relations.
Szijjártó said Hungarian-Chinese ties “are the best they’ve ever been”. He noted that Hungary signed the agreement on the implementation of the Belt and Road strategy four years ago.
Szijjártó said that Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 632 million dollar credit line to promote business ties between Hungarian and Chinese companies said.
In response to a question, the minister said China-CEE “17+1” cooperation served the interests of Hungary, central Europe and the EU as a whole. He said it was “hypocritical” to accuse the CEE countries of “disrupting European unity” by cooperating with China if the same accusations were never made when western European leaders met Chinese leaders. “We don’t accept double standards,” Szijjártó said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the working group was looking to put together concrete solutions to ensure the improvement of bilateral ties. He noted that over the past five years, some 150 countries had signed the Belt and Road strategy, adding that it “has proven a serious and popular initiative”. Wang noted that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán personally attended the second Belt and Road conference held in China earlier this year. He said Orbán was one of the initiative’s staunchest supporters, with Hungary having been the first EU country to approve the strategy back in 2015. The minister noted that since the launch of the Belt and Road initiative, Hungary and China had elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the highest rank in China’s diplomatic relations. Wang said the two countries were continuously working to expand their cooperation, calling the Budapest-Belgrade railway upgrade the “flagship” of Hungarian-Chinese cooperation.
The Chinese foreign minister said China and Hungary had always understood and respected each other, adding that their relations were more stable and their cooperation more intense than ever before.
Wang said China and Hungary were a good example of how countries of different sizes and political systems could foster friendly relations. He said Hungary and China should use the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties to “give new momentum” to building their partnership. The two countries, he said, were working to make the Belt and Road initiative successful and to launch the upgraded Budapest-Belgrade railway.