Prime Minister Orbán expressed his thanks to Serbia for helping to stop migration at Hungary’s southern borders.
He also reiterated that, if needed, Serbia can also count on technical assistance or personnel from Hungary to help protect its southern borders.
The Prime Minister said that the countries of the Visegrád Group are calling for Serbia to be granted European Union membership as soon as possible. He observed that “The proof of progress in Serbia is obvious and clearly visible”, and thus the EU should see Belgrade as a resource and an opportunity. This is particularly true, he said, in view of the fact that when Serbia protects itself from migration, it is also protecting the whole of Europe.
Serbia is the key state in the Western Balkans, the Prime Minister declared, and “there can be no peace in the Balkans without Serbia”.
Mr. Orbán said that Hungary and Serbia are proud countries, each with a strong sense of nationhood and a solid cultural identity; their cultures are based on Christianity, and this is something that they want to preserve.
On the subject of bilateral relations, the Prime Minister said that there is concurrence on political issues. He explained that “We are talking about two countries that stand on firm national foundations, and yet we are able to cooperate well with each other. This is far better than bogus internationalism, which tends to disguise problems. We prefer to identify problems, rise above them, deal with them and solve them.”
Last year the volume of trade between the two countries broke all past records, with a rise of around 30 per cent, Mr. Orbán noted. He added that there are now also Hungarian investments – primarily Serbian-Hungarian joint ventures – in both central and southern Serbia, and OTP Bank’s lending activity also extends beyond Vojvodina.
“The strengthening of the Hungarian-Serbian economy is grafting Serbia to the European Union”, he said.
The Prime Minister also spoke about plans to open new border crossing points, the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, and the fact that both Serbia and Hungary have offered scholarships for students to study in each other’s countries.
He also told the press that renovation of the Synagogue in Subotica (Szabadka) is almost complete, and the building will soon be open to the public.
The Prime Minister assured the Hungarian community living in Serbia of his support for their requests in the fields of culture and education, and thanked Serbia for supporting the autonomy of Hungarians in Vojvodina, the national councils and the cultural institutions behind them. The Prime Minister said that “everything happening in Serbia in relation to minorities” is exemplary.
He indicated that this was the fourth joint meeting of the two countries’ cabinets, and that Serbia and Hungary are approaching “the establishment of a strategic alliance arising from friendship”. Mr. Orbán said he believes that it will also be possible to align the two nations’ medium-term interests.
At the end of his statement, the Prime Minister also said that in the years ahead Romania will be producing and exporting some 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas every year, and that in the related tender Hungarian companies have finished in the first three places. Accordingly “we will very soon reach the stage at which we will be able to conclude an agreement that will enable the import of 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Romania every year for the next fifteen years”, he said, adding that the Hungarian part of the gas interconnection is already complete, and the Romanian section is now under construction.
This means that from 2021–2022 “we will be in a new situation”, he stated, and in Hungary the period of Russian gas supply monopoly will come to an end, as Hungary will be able to procure more than half its gas imports from another source: Romania. This will represent a new situation for the whole region, and Hungary will find itself in a new geostrategic position, he noted.