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An agreement on the establishment of a 16 million US dollar Kyrgyz-Hungarian fund to support investments by Hungarian companies will enter into force in the coming week, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said. “We Hungarians are more understanding of Central Asia than perhaps any other European country,” he said. “Therefore we are happy to act as a bridge … and would prefer if the EU devoted greater attention to this region.” Szijjártó also noted that Hungary opened an embassy in Bishkek last year. The embassy issues visas to six EU countries, and more member states have expressed interest, he said.
Meanwhile Szijjártó and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbayev jointly opened the Kyrgyz embassy in Hungary in Budapest on Monday. Szijjártó said countries in the West had censured Hungary for its policy of opening up to the East because “our Western friends didn’t want competition in Eastern markets”. But it was by now clear that Hungary’s strategy had borne fruit, he added.
Commenting on Hungary-Kyrgyzstan ties, the minister said there were no unresolved political issues and ties are supported by a stable financing such as a fund to boost bilateral trade. Also, 150 Kyrgyz students come to Hungary each year and study with scholarships, a programme which is vastly oversubscribed, he added.
Alongside his Kyrgyz counterpart, Szijjártó also participated in a ceremony marking the Day of Turkic Cooperation and Unity at the mission of the Turkic Council in Budapest. Hungary, he said at the event, is a Christian nation and a state reaching back more than a thousand years. In the course of its history, Hungary has been closely bound up with Eastern cultures, he added. Szijjártó said a nation could only be “strong” if it was “proud of its national identity” and refused “to give in to pressure to abandon its values, heritage and history.”
Notwithstanding their geographical remoteness from Hungary in many cases, he said ties with Turkic nations were “fraternal”, and this could be felt in everyday life.
The value of trade with Turkic countries worth more than 4 billion US dollars last year has doubled in ten years, he said, noting that Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 500 million dollar credit line, while the government is backing the establishment of a Turkic investment fund.
Fully 870 scholarships are available to Turkic Council member states for the purpose of studying in Hungarian higher education this year, with applications for places exceeding 5,000. Szijjártó also welcomed the help Hungary received last year from “Eastern countries” in terms of the country’s efforts to procure health-care equipment.