Hungary and Slovakia both highly benefit from bilateral cooperation, and their reliable partnership is behind their ability to tackle current problems, Péter Szijjártó, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said in Bratislava on Monday.
Speaking at joint press conference with Rastislav Káčer, his Slovak counterpart, Szijjártó said that when Europe faces serious challenges, predictable, reliable and good neighbourly relations are highly valued. “Hungary and Slovakia have built a predictable and reliable partnership which helps both countries in tackling the security, economic and energy supply difficulties more successfully,” he said.
Szijjártó called both countries reliable NATO partners, noting that Slovakia has contributed several dozen police units to help protect the Hungarian-Serbian border, which he said was “under siege”. At that section, authorities have so far stopped 255,000 illegal migrants this year, he said. “Your own Slovak police officers can now see first-hand how incredibly aggressive the migrants and people smugglers are,” said Szijjártó.
In terms of economic cooperation, Szijjártó said Slovakia is Hungary’s second most important trading partner, with a record volume of over 13 billion euros worth of bilateral trade reached last year. This year has seen an increase of 43%, he said. In a bid to further develop infrastructure ties, three additional bridges are slated to be completed over the Ipoly River next year. There will also be a road construction project completed and a ferry service launched in 2023, allowing border crossings at another five spots, Szijjártó said.
The Hungarian foreign minister welcomed the European Commission’s approval of a 135 million euro joint programme on cross-border development projects under the EU’s current seven-year financial framework.
Speaking about energy cooperation, Szijjártó called the decision to connect the two countries’ gas pipeline and electricity networks “the right and very good strategic decision”. As cross-border capacity has increased by 150%, electricity has become the most important commodity imported from Slovakia by Hungary, he said. Further, he said that by connecting the two countries’ gas networks, an important corridor had been created along the north-south transit route. Hungary is ready to increase gas supplies to Slovakia via the interconnector from the current annual 1.75 billion cubic metres to 5.2 billion in future, Szijjártó added. He called close cooperation in nuclear energy mutually beneficial, adding that both countries were working on increasing their capacity in an effort to boost their energy security.
Asked about disputed issues between the two countries, Szijjártó said that those had been addressed at meetings held by the mixed minority affairs committee this year. “We have reached an agreement on most of those issues, with very few exceptions,” he said, adding that the co-chairs of the committee would soon meet again.