The combination of a center-right government in Romania and the inclusion of the ethnic Hungarians’ party seems to have a beneficial event on ties with Hungary, which have been far from ideal in recent years. At a Wednesday meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers, a number of long-shelved bilateral agreements were finally signed, Transylvanian daily Krónika reports.
Perhaps the most important was that the two ministers agreed on reviving the joint committee on minority affairs, which if not exactly dead, was dormant since 2011.
Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that the Joint Committee on Minority Affairs last met in 2011, but that the current agreement, which also sets out the points of contention, also allows for the joint discussion and resolution of “previously unresolved issues”. He asked that the committee be convened again as soon as possible and that important issues, such as the continued operation of the Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureş) Catholic Lyceum, be discussed.
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu also signed an agreement with the Romanian foreign minister to amend the 2004 and 2014 border agreements in Bucharest, which he said would improve the speed of border crossings and prevent people from making major detours when visiting a place just on the other side of the border. New permanent border crossings will open between Elek-Ottlaka and Dombegyház-Kisvarjas.
According to Szijjártó, from autumn, there will be 14 permanent crossings on the Hungarian-Romanian border instead of the previous 12, with both sides building the necessary infrastructure on their half.
“The Schengen Treaty obliges us to do this,” Szijjártó said, adding that energy security issues were also discussed. They agree that climate targets are important to both countries, but achieving them requires nuclear energy and the use of natural gas as a transitional energy source.
“We will not allow Brussels to push these two forms of energy production into the background,” Szijjártó underlined. He emphasized that the third highway connection between the two countries on the Mátészalka-Csenger-Szatmárnémeti route will be established from 2024, and the modernization of the railway line between Békéscsaba and the border will be completed by 2024, so that rail traffic between Budapest-Bucharest-Constanta will run on two tracks.
Szijjártó said that the more the two countries are connected, the more likely they are to resolve conflicts; the challenges of the previous year and the pandemic have highlighted the importance of international cooperation and good neighborly relations. He recalled that in the last ten years the support provided to Romanian communities living in Hungary has been increased fivefold while the Romanian Orthodox Church receives seven times more support now than in 2010.
Aurescu said that the signing of the minutes of the 2011 committee meeting by Secretary of State Iulia Matei and Minister Ferenc Kalmár also gives hope for the resumption and development of relations between the two countries. The Romanian head of ministry said he was co-chair of the committee at the time, so he was glad the work could continue. He also trusts the structure, as experts from the two countries will take part in the dialogue, Aurescu said.
According to the Romanian minister, the meeting and the resumption of the joint committee are a sign of a strategic partnership between the two countries. He also said that the deepening of economic relations would be served by the establishment of a Hungarian-Romanian joint chamber of commerce in the autumn, according to the current agreement. The volume of trade between the two countries in 2020 was €9 billion, he noted.
He added that there is still work to be done in terms of investments: Hungary has invested more in Romanian territory in recent years than vice versa. Aurescu recalled that the Hungarian government provides financial support for quality Romanian-language education; guarantees language rights for the Romanian minority; assists in the operation of Romanian-language publications and art formations, and provides space for the construction of an Orthodox church in Budapest. The meeting also discussed a project for the development of the Transylvanian economy, the key to which, according to Aurescu, is non-discrimination, compliance with European competition law rules and the involvement of the Romanian authorities in the auditing process.
Title image: Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu (L) and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó (R) in Gyula, Hungary on April 28, 2021.