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Szijjártó-Maas Meeting: Hungary-Germany Economic Allies with Disagreements in Key Issues

MTI-Hungary Today 2019.11.05.

Germany is Hungary’s most important economic partner and a strategic ally in a number of areas, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Budapest on Monday.

At a joint press conference with Maas, Szijjártó said whereas the two countries disagreed on key issues such as “combatting migration”, they had spent more time on matters they agreed on.

Hungary and Germany are allies in the areas of defence and the economy as well as on the issue of European Union enlargement and developing the regions fled by migrants, Szijjártó said.

Concerning defence policy and the defence industry, Szijjártó said Hungary was the number-one importer of German arms in the first nine months of the year. This contributed to the modernisation of the Hungarian military as part of its pledge to meet the NATO defence spending target of 2 percent of GDP, he added.

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The ministers also touched on the matter of joint international missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo as well as the proposal to create a central European multinational military, which Germany has backed, Szijjártó said.

Hungary and Germany are also allies when it comes to developing migrant-fled regions, he said. Szijjártó noted that Hungary has contributed more than 300 million forints (EUR 913,000) to Germany’s water management projects in Uganda and the two countries are managing a joint forestry development project in Ethiopia and planning to launch a joint aid scheme in Lebanon.

Economic and trade ties are also close, Szijjártó said, noting that Germany was one of Hungary’s most important partners on foreign policy and its top trading partner. Bilateral trade turnover was just short of 55 billion euros last year and this year it has grown by four percent in the first eight months alone, he added. Over that same period, Hungarian exports to Germany exceeded 20 billion euros, he said, noting that the 6,000 German-based companies present in Hungary employ some 300,000 people.

Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI

Several major Germany companies have announced developments this year, the minister said, adding that the government will support them all.

Szijjártó said Hungary and Germany were on the same page regarding EU enlargement, with both countries working to make the integration of the Western Balkan region a reality.

Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI

Maas emphasised the importance of maintaining bilateral dialogue, adding that despite disagreements, the two countries should find common ground.

Furthermore, strengthening diverse economic, science and civil ties — including the Hungarian-German Youth Forum and sister city relations between Budapest and Berlin — serves Germany’s interests, he said.

The talks also covered topics such as constitutional norms, judicial independence and press freedom, he said. Unresolved issues such as the observation of the European Union’s fundamental values and certain financial matters will be included on the agenda during Germany’s presidency, he added.

Concerning China, the US and Turkey, efforts must be made to develop a common position shared by EU members, he said.

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Maas expressed thanks to Hungary for opening its borders 30 years ago, adding that without Hungary’s solidarity and courage the reunification of Germany could not have happened. He also marked the anniversary of the crushing of Hungary’s 1956 anti-Soviet uprising.

In response to a question concerning whether Hungary could amend military cooperation with Turkey in light of the Syria offensive, Szijjártó noted that Turkey is a NATO member and military cooperation with the country was “natural”.

Maas added that since Turkey was a NATO member, there was an expectation that it should act as a partner.

Photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI

In response to a question concerning the expansion of the Malta agreement to get migrants off boats in the Mediterranean and distribute them among willing EU partners, Szijjártó said Hungary had made clear that it would not take in migrants and would not sign any agreement that could result in a mandatory quota.

Maas said the issue of migration had been openly discussed at the meeting and Germany would like to see progress made in common migration procedures. There are countries that refuse to take in migrants but they undertake an increased role in other areas, such as in eliminating the causes of migration and in border protection, he added.

Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI

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