Hungarian-Swedish cooperation has been especially successful in the economy and defence sectors, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday, after talks with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde.
Szijjártó told a subsequent press conference that trade between the two states surpassed 2 billion euros last year, and is showing a 32 percent growth in 2021. The 225 Swedish companies operating in Hungary employ some 15,000 people, and invest more and more into research and development, he added.
During the coronavirus pandemic, five Swedish companies invested some 7 billion forints (EUR 19.2m) and preserved 4,300 jobs in Hungary, while participating in the government’s economy protection action plan, Szijjártó said.
As both countries are members of the European Union and Sweden developed close cooperation with NATO, “it is not an exaggeration to call that country an ally of Hungary,” he said.
Regarding defence cooperation, Szijjártó noted that Hungary was using Gripen aircraft for its own air defence and to aid the Baltic states and Slovenia. Meanwhile, 23 Swedish troops are serving in an international cargo unit in Hungary, he added.
Linde’s visit is the first by a Swedish foreign minister to Hungary in nine years, Szijjártó noted. Bilateral talks are especially important since the two governments see certain issues differently, he said.
Sweden is currently giving the presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Hungary will take over that of the Council of Europe (CoE) next month, Szijjártó said. The two positions will be especially important “at a time when tensions are growing between the East and the West,” he said.
The Hungarian CoE presidency will focus on the protection of national minorities, he said. Hungary supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity but will not accept infringements to Hungarian minorities’ rights during the fights in the eastern parts of the country, he said, and expressed hope that the OSCE will strive to ensure international rights.
Linde underlined the importance of open dialogue which enabled the two politicians to discuss issues such as the rule of law, and the state of human rights and gender policy in Hungary.
She noted the 100th anniversary of Hungarian-Swedish diplomatic relations last year.
Linde praised strong business and defence ties between the two countries.
She said that both the OSCE and the CoE were “vital” in preserving Europe’s security and welfare, adding that the Treaty on Open Skies, which enables the joint unarmed aerial surveillance of its members, should remain in force.
Linde said that the talks had also touched on issues regarding migration, climate change and the EU’s enlargement policy.
Linde was scheduled to meet representatives of civil organisations later in the day. “It is no secret” that the Swedish government sees certain issues differently from Hungary’s, she said.
Featured photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI