Hungary is committed to supporting Georgia’s European Union integration “with deeds as well as words”, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after a meeting his Georgian counterpart, David Zalkaliani, in Tbilisi.
He told a press conference that Hungary was dedicated to the EU Eastern Partnership programme in which Georgia plays a key role and considers it the best tool for strengthening the EU. Unfortunately, the EU is gradually losing its economic and political powers on a global platform and this process should be reversed, he said. The only way to reverse this trend is to speed up enlargement and find new partners, he added. Szijjártó said Georgia was one of the best candidates for his.
Hungary has deployed “integration experts” to Georgia, while 13 Hungarians also work in the EU’s monetary mission in the country, Szijjártó said. Hungary will continue to fund those efforts, he said.
Hungary is “glad to support” Georgia’s aim to submit an accession application to the EU in 2024, and welcomes Georgia’s making the first steps towards EU integration, the minister said.
Georgia can count of Hungary throughout the integration process, he added, noting Hungary’s “vigorous support” of the Caucasian country’s NATO membership.
Szijjártó expressed appreciation of Georgia’s participation in the fight against terrorism, especially considering that per capita Georgia has the highest participation from a non-NATO member country in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Hungary has gained much from economic and trade cooperation with Eastern partner countries, he said. Despite a 9 percent drop in global trade last year, Hungary managed to increase its trade balance by 50 million dollars, or 9 percent, last year, he added. Hungarian companies have performed successfully in Georgia, with pharmaceuticals Richter and Egis being among the first ten companies there and Wizz Air being a market leader in air travel, he said.
Joint research and development are under way in defence, and Hungarian experts are involved in the modernisation of the water network in Georgia’s second largest town, Szijjártó said. Eximbank has provided a 140 million dollar credit line to advance company relations between Hungary and Georgia.
The minister noted that energy supplies have always been a key issue in central Europe, and the creation of a southern gas corridor has offered an important opportunity to diversify gas services, he said. It is clearly in Hungary’s interest that gas from the Caucasus should be able to reach central Europe, and Georgia plays an important role in the southern gas corridor as a transit country, he added.
There is also willingness for cooperation in nuclear physics research between the Budapest technical university and the university of Tbilisi, he said. Last year, some 262 students from Georgia applied for Hungarian scholarships and Hungary offered the opportunity to study for 108 students, he added.
featured image: Szijjártó in talks with Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili; via Facebook