FM: Hungary considers its alliance with Serbia “an invaluable asset”

Minister Szijjártó said friendship and mutual respect were “invaluable” in light of the heightened tensions in the region.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Hungary considers its alliance with Serbia “an invaluable asset”.

During a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart in Budapest on Friday, Minister Szijjártó said friendship and mutual respect were “invaluable” in light of the heightened tensions in the region, noting the war in Ukraine and the assassination attempt against Slovakia’s prime minister. He welcomed that Serbian counterpart Marko Đurić had made Budapest his first destination for an official visit following his appointment. Szijjártó praised the “great developments” seen between Hungary and Serbia in recent years, highlighting that of all of Hungary’s neighbours, Serbia guaranteed the most rights to its ethnic Hungarian minority, even including Vojvodina Hungarians in the country’s governance. “The security of Hungary’s energy supply is in Serbia’s hands,” he said, noting that Hungary’s gas supply went through Serbia, and “we can always sleep easy regarding the transit.” The foreign minister noted that Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia have started operating a joint regional electricity exchange, which gave a further boost to energy security and was “an excellent measure” against rising prices. Hungary and Serbia, he said, would build an oil pipeline linking their countries, as well as “Europe’s most modern border crossing point” at Röszke. He said they were aiming to complete the construction of the railway line linking Budapest and Belgrade by the end of next year, and that Hungary would continue to store gas on Serbia’s behalf. 

Meanwhile, Szijjártó said that during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of the year, Hungary would bring Serbia closer to EU membership and had a clear goal of opening the third EU accession chapter with the country. He said Hungary considered it “unacceptable, unfair and humiliating” that the EU had been making Serbia wait for 15 years now when in its “declining shape” the bloc “needs the momentum Serbia would guarantee more than Serbians need EU membership”. He called on EU member states to “end their hypocrisy and come clean on why they’ve put obstacles in the way of the progress of Serbia’s accession”. Szijjártó also referred to next Thursday’s scheduled UN General Assembly vote on a resolution “seeking to demonise the entire Serb nation” in connection with the Srebrenica massacre. Hungary will vote against the resolution, he said, adding that it would also vote against Kosovo joining the Council of Europe. Szijjártó said it was necessary to “wait until the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina proves successful, and only then will it be worthwhile for Kosovo to apply to join international organisations”. Đurić called it an “honour” that he had been able to start seeing to his official duties with a visit to Hungary, “reaffirming the excellent relationship Serbia and Hungary have built in recent years, which is a great joy for both nations”. He said Hungary’s accomplishments in protecting its national interests and economic growth were “inspiring” to Serbia. He welcomed that Hungary was next in line to take over the EU’s rotating presidency, saying it would give Serbia and the entire region “a reliable partner” and that he expected Hungary to be a leader that would assume responsibility for European interests. Đurić thanked Hungary for its support in connection with the UN resolution, pointing out that “the opening up of old wounds by certain political circles” had created tensions in the region among Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. Hungary, he said, supported stability on this issue as well, adding that this was “a responsible approach”.