Hungary is proud to be the first European country to sign an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with China over the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto said.

The BRI “is very significant from the perspective of Europe, because it is Europe’s interest to be able to build a good and effective cooperation with China,” Szijjarto said in a recent interview.

“We think the Belt and Road Initiative would give a chance to the smaller Central and Eastern European countries to make business and trade deals with China,” Szijjarto said.

According to Szijjarto, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is going to participate in the upcoming second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

Szijjarto noted that the BRI accords with the Hungarian government’s “Opening to the East” policy, and that the country is making efforts to achieve tangible benefits through dovetailing the BRI with the policy.

Hungary has two goals regarding the BRI and wants to make them clear at the forum, said Szijjarto.

The first goal is to boost Hungary’s trade with China and to make this country more attractive to Chinese investors, according to Szijjarto.

“We respect the Chinese investors and the Chinese companies in this country because they have contributed to the success of our national economy,” he said. “They have brought technologies to the Hungarian economy which helped us to enter this new digital era of global economy.”

“We are happy that companies in the field of the automotive industry proved to be very active in the market, since the automotive industry is the number one in Hungary, and now the automotive industry enters a new phase from the combustion era to the era of electro-mobility and autonomously driven cars,” he added.

The second goal, said Szijjarto, is that Hungary should be a transit country for the China-Europe trade.

“That is why we are modernizing the railway line between Belgrade and Budapest,” he added.

The corridor, he said, will enable Hungary to offer the quickest delivery route from the Greek ports to the western parts of Europe, thus allowing Hungary to play a key role in the transport and transit route and raising the competitiveness of Chinese products in the European market.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and China. The development of bilateral ties have been moving on the fast track since the two countries lifted their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership two years ago.

In particular, Szijjarto pointed to the steadily increasing number of tourists from China to Hungary, recalling that the volume exceeded the quarter million mark in 2018, thanks to the opening of 14 Hungarian visa offices in China and direct flights connecting Hungary with China.

Also, Hungary opened a cultural institute in Beijing six years ago, while there are four Confucius Institutes in Hungary and a fifth would be opening soon.

“It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that relationship between China and Hungary is in its best form. It always has been good, always, but now it is in its best form,” said the Minister.