What do you think is Serbia’s role in the region and how would you rate the progress made so far in the implementation of reforms, as well as the results in regard to the EU accession?
I am convinced that Serbia is the key to peace and stability in the Western Balkans. We need to engage with Belgrade and understand their point of view to ensure stable development of the political situation. Serbia has a crucial role when it comes to questions of regional importance, and the approach of the government has proved valuable in order to defuse tensions in the international fora.
A key field of Serbia’s foreign policy agenda is without doubt the EU accession process. I am able to say that we finally have some good news in this regard: a negotiation cluster was opened in December 2021, which was the first one since the introduction of the new negotiation methodology. For every candidate country, the adoption of European legal standards provides important assistance in the modernisation of society and economy. However, no legal instrument can be successful without the necessary institution-building and human resource development – and these require sufficient financing. In this regard, the steady development of the Serbian economy is a major driving force behind the reform process, since it provides a solid platform for further reforms.
Diplomatic and economic relations can always be better. What do you think about the relations between our two countries and where do you see opportunities for improvement?
Hungary and Serbia have a long tradition of fostering business cooperation covering a wide range of fields. However, recent years brought substantial improvement in our bilateral relations. Our political alliance created a strong foundation for building a favourable business climate that resulted in a dynamic increase in trade volume and flow of investments. The volume of bilateral trade has been showing a steady growth, and in the past ten years the figure has doubled, reaching more than 3,5 billion EUR last year.
We see a growing number of Hungarian investments in Serbia and today Serbia is a priority target country for Hungarian enterprises. Big Hungarian investors, such as the internationally renowned petrochemical company MOL and the Hungarian OTP Bank Group have had a long-standing presence in the country. In November 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary launched a specialized financial instrument, the Western Balkans Investment Scheme with the specific aim of facilitating the economic development of the region. The program was highly successful, thus, the Hungarian Government continued the initiative with a new program called the Foreign Market Growth Incentive that has a global scope.