Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries (a grouping which comprises Czech Rep., Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) met diplomatic leaders of five central Asian countries for talks in Budapest on Tuesday afternoon.
The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the deputy foreign ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the ambassador of Turkmenistan attended a foreign ministerial meeting of central Asian countries and the Visegrad group. Orbán and the diplomats agreed that illegal migration, human smuggling and organised crime pose an equal challenge to central Asia and the Visegrad four countries. They discussed economic cooperation possibilities, which they identified in raw material exports from Central Asia to Hungary and in joint water management investment projects. They agreed on strengthening education cooperation.
Speaking after a meeting of V4 foreign ministers and their counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that the two regions have similar challenges and they are similarly committed to fighting religious radicalism and terrorism. “A bridge should be built between the Visegrad countries and Central Asia” to facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation in terms of politics, economy, and security, Szijjártó said. They also have similar positions concerning stemming illegal migration, the foreign minister added.
Szijjártó also noted that Central Asia has significant amounts of raw materials and cooperation offers opportunities for joint water management projects, too. The foreign minister said the meeting was the first of its kind, but suggested that similar conferences could be held in the future. He said that an objective of Hungary’s V4 presidency was to “make it clear to the European Union that it needs external allies and friends” so that the community can “regain its due position in the world economy”.
This latest conference seems to fit in with the Orbán government’s Eastern Opening policy, which aims to deepen diplomatic and, more importantly, economic ties with rapidly-growing eastern, particularly East Asian, countries. As a part of this for example, in 2015 Szijjártó held talks in Kazakhstan, where he claimed that the country is Hungary’s main trading partner in Central Asia, and that Kazakhstan’s most important trading partner is the EU. Also, he has visited twice the Philippines to agree on deals for Hungary to export meat products to the Philippines and reopen its embassy in Manila. In addition, in November of last year Chinese PM Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Hungary as Budapest hosted the Central Europe- China forum where they agreed to further boost economic cooperation among the countries.
image via Botár Gergely/ PM’s Press Office