Lendava – Slovenian and Hungarian PMs Janez Janša and Viktor Orban stressed as they signed an agreement on cooperation to develop the border areas populated by the countries’ respective minorities in Lendava on Monday that the minorities were a “bridge for cooperation between two friendly countries” and economic ties between them brought double benefit.
After the first agreement on protection and cooperation in the development of the Slovenian minority in Hungary and the Hungarian in Slovenia was signed almost 30 years ago, the agreement signed today will upgrade this cooperation with a very concrete document, Janša said.
In the next five years, EUR 5 million will be allocated for the development of the minorities on both sides of the border.
Janša stressed that trade between Slovenia and Hungary had increased by almost 20% in the past year, which showed that businesses on both sides of the border had discovered untapped potential.
“I can say that the potential is significantly higher and that in the future we will gladly upgrade and use it,” Janša said.
He highlighted concrete steps made towards connecting the energy systems of both countries, cooperation in infrastructure projects and enhanced economic cooperation and trade between the countries.
Hungary is currently seventh most important trade partner of Slovenia and Janša believes that the economic and other types of cooperation could enhance further, as Slovenia and Hungary are two neighbouring countries and because economic ties between them bring double benefit.
Janša also said he was happy that Education Minister Simona Kustec and Hungarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Levente Magyar signed an agreement on cooperation in education, culture and science between 2022 and 2025. He sees it as very important also for broader cooperation between the countries.
Janša and Orban also discussed support to the countries’ international bids, such as candidacies for leading the UN General Assembly and Slovenia’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2024-2025.
They also exchanged views on the challenges brought about by the increasingly unstable situation in Europe.
Orban assessed that both Slovenia and Hungary had been successful in dealing with the epidemic and that their economies would emerge from it stronger than before.
He said that today’s agreement was not important only because of its contents, very important for those living near the border, but also because it would benefit all Hungarians and all Slovenians and strengthen friendship between the countries.
This is important because friendship will in the future become the most valued currency and it will be easier to find answers together than individually, he said.
Orban believes that the voice from central Europe in the EU should be heard at least as much as that of the countries from western Europe.
Asked what the upcoming elections in both countries could mean for bilateral relations, Janša said that friendly relations between countries and cooperation had never and would never depend on election results.
“But we can say that at least in some matters cooperation recently, especially on minority protection, and not just during our last government term, has been significantly better than in the first 20 years since the signing of the first agreement,” he added.
According to Janša, in the last eleven years that have seen Orban leading the Hungarian government, aid to the Slovenian minority in the Porabje region has gone up sixfold.
“We are codependent. I believe we will continue to cooperate and live in a friendly atmosphere and with mutual assistance regardless of which colour the governments on both sides are.”
Orban said that neighbours shared the same fate and were dependant on each other. “To tell you the truth cooperation is harder with left-leaning parties,” he said.
Janša and Orban also have a shared view on the tackling of the Ukraine crisis and support a peaceful solution, noting that there would be no winner if tensions escalated. They also stressed the need for the EU’s unity.
Janša thinks that next to the geostrategic reasons, the energy crisis in Europe has also been caused by a too quick green transition attempt. The transition must be gradual and must not enhance energy poverty, he said.
Orban was also critical of the EU’s climate policy, saying that it had assumed that people will spend less if prices go up, but speculators took advantage of this and raised the prices quickly.