I cordially welcome you all, and I extend an especially warm welcome to the Prime Minister of Laos. In terms of area, Laos is twice the size of Hungary, and many thousands of kilometres separate us; and yet there is a friendship between the two countries which extends back many decades. No one knows the reason for this: somehow it emerged that Laotians and Hungarians share friendly feelings for one another. In modern diplomacy, too, friendship is the most precious asset. So today the Honourable Prime Minister and I discussed how we could turn this friendship to our advantage. We agreed on the following.
First of all, we have raised the level of political relations between the two countries to the so-called “strategic” level: the level of strategic partnership. We will open a representation in Laos. We will launch the fourth phase of our tied aid credit cooperation programme, as part of which Hungary is providing Laos with major tied aid loans. Laos makes use of these, and thus we are able to implement several Hungarian projects in your country. By Hungarian standards, we are now talking about serious sums of money, as the loans financing these projects amount to tens of millions of dollars. As a result, our trade volume has increased six-fold in two years. At the same time we have also opened a 45 million dollar credit line to facilitate business cooperation, because we hope that after the tied aid credit programme there can also be purely business-based cooperation between our businesses. A prime area of our cooperation is education. There are more than 300 people in important positions in Laotian society who have studied in Hungary. It is heart-warming to see that even in the visiting delegation of the Prime Minister there are people who have studied in Hungary and who speak Hungarian. There are currently 186 Laotian students studying in Hungary with Hungarian state scholarships, and the Prime Minister and I have agreed that we will increase the number of scholarships provided annually by the Hungarian state to 100.
It was extremely valuable for Hungary that the Prime Minister also updated us on regional affairs, thereby helping Hungary to safely find its bearings in the Southeast Asian region. We are grateful to the Honourable Prime Minister for giving us advice, we are grateful for cooperation in economic and education areas, and we are grateful for your friendship.
Thank you very much for visiting us.