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May 16, 2020

Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán after his talks with the President of Serbia

15 May 2020, Belgrade (Београд)

Honourable President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to speak to you today. First of all, I would like to thank President Vučić for providing the opportunity for regular consultations during the pandemic. We have consulted each other very frequently, more frequently than ever; we have compared experiences, and have striven to assist each other. We Hungarians are grateful for this, Mr. President. If one asks why we have come to Belgrade now, I can give two replies. The first is that it is good to come to Belgrade: Hungarians love this city and are eager to come here. The second reason is political in nature. We came so that we can give each other reassurance. What I expected, and expect from our remaining discussions, is reassurance and encouragement for each other – not in words, but in deeds. Because I see that both countries have won the first battle, with containment of the pandemic in both Serbia and Hungary. Now we see the commencement of a second battle, in which we must encourage each other: the battle to relaunch the economy and increase economic performance. This is what we have been talking about today, and will continue to talk about.

Our relationship, which President Vučić briefly reviewed here earlier, is based on the shared conviction that we need to deal with preparations for the future. In Hungary we call this the politics of hope. We believe that cooperation will result in everyone having a future which is better than their past was, or better than the present: better for the Serbs and better for the Hungarians. We approach every issue from this perspective. Trade between our two countries set a record last year. So we are grateful to President Vučić for allowing goods traffic between the two countries to flow unhindered during the pandemic, and we are also grateful for being able to reach an agreement on cross-border commuting for people living in areas on either side of the border.This is needed so that in the coming year the volume of economic cooperation can increase further. 

As the President has said, Hungary is committed to supporting Serbia’s European integration efforts. We expect the institutions in Brussels to open the six negotiating chapters that Serbia is ready to open. As for the specifics of economic cooperation, earlier I promised President Vučić that Hungary will support Serbian investment in Hungary. And I am pleased to report that there are such Serbian investments in Hungary – one of which has received substantial support from the Hungarian state. And we look forward to upcoming investments, because we believe that it is good if both we invest in Serbia and you Serbs invest in Hungary. So we warmly welcome every Serbian investment in Hungary, because in every one we see reciprocity and the future. Our Eximbank has opened a credit line of EUR 100 million, so that we can support cooperation between Serbian and Hungarian companies. I see that construction of the rail link between Budapest and Belgrade has also entered a phase of more rapid progress. Everyone could see that bringing Chinese goods into Europe would be one of the key questions in the future, and that this rail line would help to accelerate this. We will also see the construction of a joint gas pipeline, enabling Hungary to receive some of its gas from you, the Serbs, from the territory of Serbia. For a long time this has only been possible in the opposite direction. I think that also in this respect we were good neighbours, but now the flow can reverse: not only will gas be supplied to Serbia from Hungary, but it will also be supplied to Hungary from Serbia. This is good news.

In summary I would like to say that, as we see it, Serbia’s economic figures are clear and unambiguous; and if we want our rate of economic growth to remain competitive with that of Serbia in any way, we will really need to put our shoulders to the wheel. We want to remain competitive, but this will not be an easy task.The future can be seen in the economic growth numbers we see here, and so in the period ahead we expect strong growth in the Serbian economy. And I think that every rational person can clearly see that in Europe and European politics there needs to be a reappraisal of Serbia and the Serbs. Serbia has restored its prestige and returned to the sphere of European politics. We welcome this development, because what we see and hope for is a strengthening Serbia which is willing and able to contribute to the region’s stability and development. And we Hungarians need a healthy, developing neighbour that strives for good neighbourly relations. We are convinced that a strong, healthy, dynamically developing Serbia is a fundamental interest for Hungary. We are continuing the negotiations with this hope in mind.

Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.