"Serbia building relationship of trust with Hungary"

BELGRADE -- Relations between Serbia and Hungary are improving, and Serbia will be a good and responsible partner to Hungary, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić says.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

He spoke in Belgrade on Tuesday spoke after the governments of the two countries held their first-ever joint session in Belgrade.

"The relations between Serbia and Hungary are improving and I hope that we are now establishing a relationship of trust, sincerity, respect and understanding, rather than formally good, but traditionally mistrustful relations. As regards Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom we here in Serbia perceive as a friend... he and all members of his government are always welcome," Vučić said.

In a statement to reporters in the Palace of Serbia, Vučić said that a closed-door meeting with Orban addressed specific forms of cooperation between the two governments, ranging from Hungary's support to Serbia on its European pathway, to constructing rail and road infrastructure.

The Serbian prime minister noted that he discussed with his Hungarian counterpart the construction of railway lines from Belgrade to Budapest and from Subotica to Baja via Szeged, as well as the possibility of opening more border crossings.

"I asked for advice on our common economic and political problems, but also on matters that we will have to consider and deal with in the future, such as the South Stream," he said.

The Serbian prime minister said that a high level of agreement was reached at the meeting.

Vučić also announced discussions on matters related to education and culture, adding that Prime Minister Orban proposed Hungarian scholarships for 50 ethnic Hungarians from Serbia, while a certain number of Hungarian citizens would also obtain education in Serbia.

"The potentials of our bilateral cooperation are enormous. We agreed that we should participate in specific projects together to ensure joint access to EU funds, and to use this difficult moment to strengthen our infrastructure", Vučić said, noting that Serbia will always be a good and responsible partner to Hungary.

Viktor Orban said that Serbia has a strong and determined government, noting that he hopes for a closer cooperation between the two governments in the coming period.

"Hungary supports Serbia's accession to the European Union," said Orban, adding that he confirmed to Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić that no difficulties could arise that would make Budapest change this decision.

"It is our moral obligation, and our policy is based on the two countries' shared history," Orban told a joint press conference in Belgrade after his meeting with Vučić.

Even though EU enlargement is not a popular concept in the Union at this moment, Hungary will do everything to make it acceptable, he added.

Orban also pointed out that Vučić proved a resolute and ambitious partner, noting that several years ago he signed an agreement with the then Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Đinđić which could serve as a basis for building trust between the two countries, but that the implementation of this agreement was suspended for known reasons. "I think that now I have gained partners for years to come," the Hungarian prime minister said.

He pointed to the construction of Belgrade-Budapest railway as the two countries' main cooperation project, and confirmed that the Hungarian side will provide all the conditions for the modernization of railway transport on this route, noting that in the 21st century it is unacceptable for a train ride from Belgrade to Budapest to last eight hours. "We will do everything to make that journey twice as fast," said Orban.

He announced that the number of border crossings between Serbia and Hungary will be increased in the coming period, noting that both countries intend to place checkpoints at a distance of 20 kilometers from each other and not 55 km as is the case now.

Orban also underlined that Hungary wants to send its students to study abroad in Serbia, as well as to have Serbian students receive their education in Hungary, pointing out that the procedure of degree recognition should be faster.

He commended the good intentions of Prime Minister Vučić who, as he said, recognizes the aspirations of the Hungarian community in Serbia to live as Serbian citizens and at the same time preserve their own identity.

On behalf of the people of Hungary, Orban extended condolences to the Serbian people for the loss of life and property in the floods that swept through Serbia mid May.

Serbia aided Hungary during the floods last year, and Hungary did the same for Serbia this year, Orban said.

"If problems occur, we can count on each other,” the prime minister of Hungary underlined.

Agreements signed

The governments of Serbia and Hungary held a joint sitting on Tuesday, during which top officials signed several agreements in the field of transportation, environmental protection and cooperation between the interior ministries.

Serbian Minister of Transportation, Construction and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlović and Hungarian Minister of National Development Miklos Sesztak signed an agreement on road passenger and freight transport between the Serbian and Hungarian governments.

Serbian Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Snezana Bošković-Bogosavljević and Secretary of State at the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture Istvan Nagy signed an agreement on the legal status of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović and his Hungarian counterpart Sandor Pinter signed a protocol on the establishment and operations of a joint contact center for police cooperation between the two ministries.

They also signed protocols on joint patrols along the border and operations of the Bački Vinogradi border crossing point.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić welcomed his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban with full state and military honors, and then a tete-a-tete meeting between the two prime ministers, and separate meetings between the line ministers were held.