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Political relations promote economic cooperation

Mr. Orbán said that Hungary supports Ukraine’s strategic goals, such as territorial sovereignty, accession to the European Union in the medium term, and visa-free travel in the EU.

He further reported that an action plan for support of economic cooperation is being developed under the supervision of Minister for National Development Miklós Seszták. As part of the action plan, which also includes road construction projects and the opening of border crossing stations, a credit line for aid worth EUR 50 million will be provided, while Hungarian businesses in Transcarpathia will receive an allocation of two billion forints this year, and five billion forints next year.

He said that, given that the proposed free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine is supported by all other EU Member States, the veto by the Netherlands – one of Europe’s richest countries – has resulted in an insupportable situation. He said that he finds it inconceivable that “we should engage in substantive negotiations with Turkey before we grant this opportunity to Ukraine”. Granting Ukraine visa-free travel, he added, “does not cost anything, and is only a matter of political courage”.

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Photo: Gergely Botár

Speaking before an audience of hundreds of businesspeople in the main hall of Debrecen University, Mr. Orbán said that “only faint-heartedness can impose limits” on the growth of the Hungarian economy. While there is no guarantee that the economy will be as successful over the next few years as it has been over the past three, “according to all reliable projections, this upward trend could carry on for quite a few more years”.

Speaking about Ukraine, he stressed that the country “is not in an easy situation, and there are semi-war conditions” which have also caused a major setback in Hungarian-Ukrainian business relations – although the countries have experienced an increase in recent months. Ukraine is a geographical link between East and West, he said; political stability, the Government’s ability to make sound decisions and a reliable legal environment will determine the success of economic cooperation.

The Prime Minister stated that, after a long and difficult EU accession process, Hungary and the other Visegrád countries have become Europe’s economic engine. “If the V4 were not members of the EU, there would be no economic growth in the Union”, he added. He said that Ukraine is in a similar situation, and “it will cost money initially”, but will later contribute to development with its economy.

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Photo: Gergely Botár

Ukrainian prime minister Volodymyr Groysman firstly pointed out that Ukraine is facing greater challenges than at any time since it regained its independence. He stressed that some time ago the Ukrainian people voiced their wish to belong to Europe and the EU. Ukraine is a part of Europe, Prime Minister Groysman pointed out.

He told his audience that Ukraine would like to see nations offering visa applications free of charge, which would greatly facilitate the entry and employment of Ukrainian nationals in the EU. He thanked Mr. Orbán for his and Hungary’s support and effort aimed at granting Ukrainians visa-free travel to the

Mr. Groysman said that Ukraine and Hungary see future relations between the two countries in the same light, and in recent years the economies of both countries have developed. He also stressed that over the last few months trade between Hungary and Ukraine has increased, and in the last quarter of 2014 the Ukrainian economy produced indicators which were better than expected. He said that Ukraine has great opportunities, primarily in agriculture, the chemical industry, the energy sector and the machine industry, and sector-specific cooperation schemes could also benefit Hungary. Mr. Groysman said that Ukraine has a vested interest in ensuring that members of the Hungarian business community who intend to invest or set up businesses in Ukraine should perceive the Ukrainian government’s support, and should become successful. With this, they are also assisting Ukraine’s development.

He pointed out that the Ukrainian government seeks to support the growth of businesses settling in Ukraine with measures such as the establishment of an agency promoting investment, reform of the judicial system, and abolition of certain laws and decrees which impede investment.

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Photo: Gergely Botár

Mr. Seszták stressed that Ukraine has always been a priority strategic partner for Hungary, and that trade in the first eight months of 2016 amounted to some USD 1.8 billion. He indicated that on Thursday the Hungarian and Ukrainian prime ministers agreed on the most significant economic and infrastructure programme in the two countries’ history. This includes the refurbishment of bridges on the River Tisza, extension of the M3 motorway to the Ukrainian border, the planning and construction of the M34 express road from Vásárosnamény to Záhony, and cooperation in sport. As part of the business development programme launched by the Hungarian government, an allocation of HUF 2 billion will be made available for the promotion of Hungarian and Ukrainian businesses operating in Ukraine

Mayor of Debrecen László Papp (Fidesz-KDNP) highlighted that Debrecen aspires to become the regional centre of the Carpathian Basin’s eastern region. He announced that his city will enter into partner city agreements with Ungvár/ Uzhorod and Kharkiv. In a welcome speech delivered in both Ukrainian and Hungarian, Zoltán Szilvássy, Rector of Debrecen University, said that his university intends to assign an important role to the development of relations with neighbouring countries in the fields of education, culture, academia and innovation.