The Slovenian and Hungarian governments introduced tough measures to defeat the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic and return their respective countries to a normal course of life, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said at the opening of a Hungarian consulate in Koper on Thursday.
“As a result, the current task in Hungary is to relaunch the Hungarian economy as soon as possible,” he told the ceremonial event.
Hungary, however, is not an island and cannot act independently of its surroundings or isolate itself from its neighbours, he added.
The success of economic cooperation with neighbouring countries is therefore vitally important for Hungary’s foreign economic performance and the relaunch of the economy, Szijjártó said.
Koper is a key city in terms of Hungary’s foreign trade policy, the minister said, underlining the importance of the Port of Koper for Hungarian companies exporting their products to the Far East and Africa.
Even last year, when global trade took a hit because of the pandemic, Hungarian companies shipped around 2 million tonnes of goods through the Port of Koper, Szijjártó said.
“And this year we’re already seeing a 16 percent growth in trade turnover,” the minister said, adding that Hungarian businesses accounted for ten percent of the port’s cargo turnover.
Szijjártó congratulated Slovenia on the expansion of the port’s container terminal, calling it one of the most important projects of the past decade.
Given the importance of exports to Hungary’s economy, it is in the interest of Hungarian companies to get their goods out to the port as quickly as possible, while importers want to offload their goods and ship them to Hungary similarly swiftly, Szijjártó said.
Hungary’s new consulate will help Hungarian companies shipping their goods to, or doing business in, Koper as well as those investing in Slovenia, the minister said.
Concerning bilateral economic ties, Szijjártó said trade turnover between Hungary and Slovenia came close to 3 billion euros in 2019. Trade turnover in the first quarter of this year was close to the turnover registered in the same period two years ago, while exports came close to matching the all-time Q1 record.
Hungary’s most successful companies are continuing to expand their presence on the Slovenian market, Szijjártó said. OTP Bank is now the biggest player in Slovenia’s banking sector, while oil and gas company MOL is the second biggest fuel company in the country, he added.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 350 million euro credit line to help finance Hungarian-Slovenian business cooperation.
Szijjártó said the new consulate in Koper will also be tasked with helping out Hungarian citizens visiting the city, noting that some 49,000 Hungarians had visited the Slovenian seashore before the pandemic.
“Also, we mustn’t forget that there’s a Hungarian diaspora of some 200 people living here by the sea, who will now get a chance to have official relations with the motherland,” he said.
The minister thanked Iztok Seljak, the owner of one of the biggest Slovenian companies with investments in Hungary, for agreeing to head the consulate.
He also handed over Hungary’s official greeting to Slovenia on the occasion of 30th anniversary of its independence and welcomed Slovenia’s takeover of the European Union’s rotating presidency.
At the ceremony, Szijjártó also presented Slovenian police officer Erik Demirovic with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary, Military Division, in recognition of his role in the repatriation of Hungarians during the pandemic.