The Prime Minister stressed that regional energy networks must become more closely interconnected, and this will enable the end of excessive reliance on Russian gas. Mr. Orbán said that he sees the most important economic task in the years ahead as being the successful consolidation of the competitiveness of the countries of Central Europe, together with the Western Balkans, through the establishment of the most extensive energy networks and opportunities possible.
He explained that for years Hungary has been striving to establish natural gas supply routes with as many countries as possible. The interconnectors which are needed for this require certain tasks to be performed on them, but so far Romania and Croatia have failed to do these within their borders – which has meant that so far gas from these countries cannot reach Hungary.
Mr. Orbán said that in terms of energy supply Hungary will be able to make its industry competitive, adding that in his opinion Serbia will only be able to become fully integrated with Europe if its energy system is capable of connecting to that of Central Europe.
The Prime Minister said that one of the great challenges for the future is the fact that the world’s energy demands are increasing every year, with the Central European region’s demand for energy increasing by 3–5 per cent annually. He said that in his opinion the EU should take action on energy price competition, because in this respect the United States is far ahead of Europe.
If the planned development projects are realised, Mr. Orbán said, Hungary will have the opportunity to move from its current role of energy importer to become an energy exporter. Although Hungary may not be rich in fossil fuel resources, the Prime Minister stated, it has highly developed infrastructure and energy companies with excellent management skills, many of which were repurchased by the state after 2010; it also has a well-functioning nuclear power plant, that is being expanded, he said.
The Prime Minister said that the integration of the Serbian and Hungarian electricity exchanges is an important step forward in terms of the energy industry.
Mr. Orbán also stated that Hungary will continue to push for the greatest possible acceleration of Serbia’s EU accession. He stressed that the Balkans must be integrated into the European Union, and described as “very distant” the European Commission’s 2025 target deadline for achievement of this.
He highlighted that the accession of the Balkan States will alter Europe’s economic centre of gravity, which will increasingly shift from the West towards Central and Eastern Europe. He noted that every year it becomes increasingly clear that the European Union’s focus of economic activity is shifting towards Central Europe. Trade between the countries of the Visegrád Group (V4) and Germany is already 55 per cent higher that that between Germany and France, he pointed out.
Mr. Orbán also said that relations between Hungary and Serbia have never been as good as they are now, declaring that Hungarian-Serbian relations are not determined by the past, but by plans for the future, and this will involve a great deal of work. The two countries can only be successful together, not to each other’s detriment, he said.
Following the Hungarian-Serbian business forum, Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić said that as a full member of the European Union Serbia will not wait for funding, but will strive to itself contribute to strengthening the EU.
The Serbian prime minister declared that Belgrade sees the 2025 target date for Serbia’s accession, as determined in the EU’s strategy, to be reasonable and acceptable, and Serbia will fulfil the accession requirements. She told the press that during the accession process Serbia’s most committed supporter has been Hungary, which is also providing expert assistance towards the closing of the various negotiation chapters.
Prime Minister Brnabić declared that EU accession is unimaginable without infrastructure links – one of the most important elements of which will be the new Budapest-Belgrade railway line. She added that the preparation of further infrastructure projects with Hungary is also underway, and passenger and freight transport will both be facilitated by the opening of new border crossing points next year.
The Serbian prime minister also stressed that the Serbian energy market is becoming increasingly diverse, and the energy industry has also opened up to private investors, but the efficiency of energy use remains a challenge. She added that she is counting on the professional expertise of Hungarian companies to help remedy this problem.
Prime Minister Brnabić confirmed that Serbia must spend as much money as possible on infrastructure development, in which the Serbian government is planning to give China a major role. Serbia would also like closer relations with the region’s countries, she said, for instance with Bulgaria, and has come to an agreement with the Hungarian government on opening two new border crossing stations on the Serbian-Hungarian border next year.