The current novel coronavirus epidemic shows just how much countries in the Carpathian Basin and the broader region rely on each other, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Cluj (Kolozsvár). At a press conference held jointly with ethnic Hungarian party RMDSZ leader Hunor Kelemen, Szijjártó noted that the Hungarian government recently set up a humanitarian corridor for Romanians making their way from Austria to their homeland. The government at the same time asked the Romanian authorities to help avoid tailbacks on the Hungarian side of the border, he said.
“Regrettably, experiences so far aren’t positive,” he said. “Over night, tailbacks of 15-20km formed at the Hungarian-Romanian border due to Romanian border police procedures.” He added that Hungarian authorities had been able to successfully address that issue with their Austrian and Slovak counterparts, and they would not withhold their cooperation from Romania. Szijjártó said he hoped bilateral ties with Romania would be characterised by “mutual respect, mutual assistance and mutual loyalty.” Hungary is ready to build such relations, he added. The foreign minister noted that on the day he received his Romanian counterpart’s request to help Romanians return via Hungary, another Romanian government agency had fined the mayor of Sfantu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) several thousand euros for using Hungarian symbols on the day of Hungary’s March 15 national holiday. “It would be good to avoid such cases. We will help Romanian nationals return to their homeland, but in these hard times we request that ties are governed by mutual assistance and reciprocated solidarity.”
Meanwhile, Szijjártó underscored the “vital importance” of ensuring the continued functioning of both countries’ economies. The Hungarian government has therefore asked Romania for its cooperation in facilitating smooth road haulage. He noted that the turnover of bilateral trade was worth 8.3 billion euros last year, adding that the uninterrupted transport of goods was of “critical importance” in terms of supplying residents.
Concerning his current trip to Romania, Szijjártó said that arrangements had been made before the coronavirus outbreak, adding that it was important to focus on “future cooperation beyond the virus”. He said that the Hungarian government was ready to continue its economic scheme aimed at promoting ethnic Hungarian businesses in Romania. The Hungarian government has so far awarded 47 billion forints (EUR 134m), contributing to a total 6,000 projects which have created investments worth a combined 87 billion forints, he added. “We are ready to roll out the scheme to the Partium [in north-western Romania] and will start preparations, circumstances permitting.” Szijjártó added that the government is also planning to continue its programme of building nurseries for ethnic Hungarian communities.
Kelemen asked Szijjártó to help find a solution for Hungarian and Romanian nationals who have so far commuted to work to the other side of the border. Recent epidemic-related measures have made commuting impossible, jeopardising the subsistence of thousands, he said.