Sofia, January 21, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Visiting Bulgaria on January 21 for meetings with government ministers, Hungarian foreign affairs and trade minister Péter Szijjártó said that he hoped that a new, direct air route would be established between Budapest and the Bulgarian capital in early 2017.
Szijjártó announced during meetings in Sofia an agreement on the setting up of a bilateral joint economic committee, according to statements by the Bulgarian and Hungarian foreign ministries.
The Hungarian foreign minister met Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov and Minister of Economy Bozhidar Loukarsky, holding discussion on bilateral relations and the most important challenges facing Europe.
The decision to establish a joint economic committee was made because Hungarian enterprises are showing heightened interest in Bulgarian market opportunities and companies such as Richter and Videoton are already present in the country with significant capacities and wish to expand operations, Szijjártó said.
Trade between Bulgaria and Hungary topped a billion euro at the end of last October, a nine per cent increase from the previous year.
On January 20, Hungary received a letter from the European Commission stating it has no objections to the Hungarian Government launching public procurement tender proceedings in the interests of there once again being an air service between Budapest and the Bulgarian capital. If the public procurement tender is successful, a direct Budapest-Sofia air route could be launched in early 2017, Szijjártó said.
Energy was a key topic in talks.
Szijjártó said that it is unfortunate from a Hungarian perspective that the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline is no longer on the agenda, but the Hungarian Government welcomes the European Commission’s Wednesday decision according to which it will be providing funding to enable Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria to co-operate in the interests of interconnecting their gas pipeline systems, as a result of which the Southern Gas Corridor will be connected to Central Europe, he added.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov told a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart, “the deepening of the bilateral dialogue between Bulgaria and Hungary in the economic sphere is in the interest of the development of trade, investment, tourism and energy security of our two countries”.
On energy security, the two foreign ministers agreed that Bulgaria and Hungary have many common interests and potential for convergence of relations in this sphere. “Our two countries together with Romania will be looking for new directions to achieve energy diversification, including through the development of roads connecting Central and Eastern Europe with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran,” the Hungarian foreign minister said.
Mitov and Szijjártó discussed the current situation about migration in Europe. Mitov emphasised that Bulgaria and Hungary share the same concern about the severity of the problem of migration and refugees.
Mitov said that the goal was to find a common effective response, adding that citizens of the countries and European citizens expected that “we can shape the environment around us, not the environment shape us”.
The Hungarian foreign minister emphasized the need to secure protection of the external borders of the EU. He said that Bulgaria gave a good example of successful control.
“We see no obstacle to the European institutions initiating a procedure for the accession of Bulgaria to the Schengen area,” Szijjártó said.
They also agreed on the idea that responsibility for border protection is a common problem of all countries of the region. It was emphasized that the EU as a community should focus on protecting the most sensitive areas, including the maritime border of Greece. Prominent were commitments for stricter control of the Republic of Turkey and the role of the Republic of Macedonia to deal with the situation.
Mitov said that Bulgaria was managing very well, in both assessing the situation and exercising control, he added. What must be done additionally, according to Mitov, is to have Greece establish strict control along the EU’s external border.
Szijjártó and Borissov discussed trade, economic and investment co-operation between the two countries, the Bulgarian government media service said.
Borissov highlighted the government’s work towards energy diversification, emphasising Bulgaria’s desire for the setting up of a gas hub in the country.