Hungary would strongly support even closer economic cooperation between Europe and China, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Hong Kong on Wednesday, adding that the separation of the two economies would amount to a “total knockout” and would make it impossible to improve competitiveness. Addressing a panel discussion at the annual Belt and Road Summit, Szijjártó said the EU was currently facing its most severe economic and security challenges of recent years. The war in Ukraine has been going on for a year and a half, and “unfortunately the answer Europe has given to this war proved to be a big mistake, a huge failure,” he said, according to a foreign ministry statement. “Because Europe should have isolated this war, but instead of that, Europe has globalised this war. And nowadays, unfortunately the impacts of this war are global,” he added. The war must be prevented from turning into a global conflict, he said, warning that every additional day of fighting increased the risk of escalation.
Szijjártó said it was illogical of Europe to have “accepted the … provocation” of the United States into a race to see who delivered more weapons to Ukraine. He said this had also been a mistake because since the war was happening in Europe, it was the continent that primarily had to pay the price of the conflict in the form of deteriorating competitiveness, casualties and decaying infrastructure. The minister said Europe’s sanctions had proven to be “a total failure”, arguing that they had failed to bring Russia to its knees or an end to the fighting, and were hurting the continent more. The EU’s competitiveness is deteriorating by the day, he said, arguing that China had overtaken the bloc last year in terms of GDP. He warned of the risks posed by the re-emergence of geopolitical blocs, saying this was “the worst possible scenario for central Europe”. Up until now, the model of European economic growth has been based on the combination of advanced Western technologies and easily accessible, relatively cheap Eastern energy sources, but these ties are being severed one by one, and certain players also urge a “decoupling” of the European and Chinese economies, Szijjártó said. “That would be a total knockout for the European economy,” he said, noting that bilateral trade turnover amounts to an annual 875 billion euros.
Hungary therefore urges even closer, stronger, more successful and more effective economic cooperation between Europe and China, the minister said. Hungary’s sovereign foreign policy is based on mutual respect instead of criticising and lecturing others, and strives for connectivity and keeping communication channels open over the re-forming of blocs, Szijjártó said, arguing that the international community would otherwise be giving up even the hope for peace. Making Hungary a meeting point for Eastern and Western businesses is a key strategic goal of the Hungarian government, as it is a guarantee of long-term economic growth, he said.
This has been aided by a foreign policy which builds on connectivity and has proven successful, Szijjártó said, pointing out that Hungary has become the number one central European destination for Chinese investments and that it was the first EU country to join the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition to Hungary, European businesses are also strongly against cutting ties between the European and Chinese economies, as the continent would not be able to regain its competitiveness without strong East-West cooperation, Szijjártó said.
The minister also touched on the car industry’s transition to electric vehicles, which he said required a division of labour between East and West, as almost all of the batteries needed for European vehicles are made in China, South Korea and Japan, which creates a strong dependence. Hungary has become a “success story” in this area, and is the only country besides Germany and China to have plants from all three big German premium carmakers, Szijjártó said. Also, five of the world’s top ten battery manufacturers are present in Hungary, making the country the world’s fourth-biggest, and soon the second-biggest battery maker, he added. Because Hungary believes in connectivity and strong cooperation between East and West, strengthening the Belt and Road Initiative will always be a focus of its foreign policy strategy, Szijjártó said.