The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide paid an official visit to Budapest this Friday. Topics in her talks with the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó included European cooperation, security policy and other relevant foreign policy issues. The two politicians agreed that Norway and Hungary have good bilateral cooperation in many areas, such as in the business sector.
"We had a good discussion about a number of topics of common interest, both about our bilateral relationship and, not least, our cooperation in NATO and the UN, and with the EU. It was also important for me to convey our concern for the developments we are now seeing in Hungary. This applies in particular to the reports we receive about the limitations, among other things, in the conditions for civil society, media and academia. Therefore, it was important to also visit the Central European University and meet with representatives of civil society," Minister Søreide said.
Support for civil society
The Norweagian Foreign Ministry notes that Hungary has received EEA funding since the country joined the EU in 2004, but no agreement has yet been reached on new agreements on EEA funds to the country. As in all recipient countries, it is crucial for Norway and the other donors that the support channeled to civil society through the EEA funds should be managed independently of the authorities.
"I hope a new agreement on EEA funding for Hungary will soon be in place so that we can continue the good cooperation within a number of fields that are important for both countries," Eriksen Søreide added.
Norway is a very important partner for Hungary in defense policy and energy cooperation, Péter Szijjártó said at the press conference after the talks, emphasizing the two counties' membership in NATO. He was of the view that the two governments have different opinions in certain issues but that does not exclude close cooperation in other matters.
He talked about the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL having been present in exploration in the oil fields off the coast of Norway in the North Sea. He added that Norway, as the second biggest supplier of natural gas to the EU may come into the picture regarding the energy source diversification of the Union.
They also talked about migration, Péter Szijjártó said. As he pointed out, it was another example where they had a different approach to certain issues, while others did not. The two ministers agreed on the importance of local development programs. The Hungarian government believes that help should be taken where the problem is, he added. He stressed stated that negotiations on the Norwegian Fund for civilians should be continued.