Péter Balázs held talks in Beijing and Shanghai, opened new Hungarian Consulate General in Chongqing

On the first stop of his official visit, the head of Hungarian diplomacy held talks in Beijing with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Guangya, and took part in a regional meeting of heads of Hungarian diplomatic missions stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. He opened the Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary in Chongqing and gave a lecture at the local Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

This was the foreign minister’s second visit to China within a year, and this visit’s main purpose was to officially open the Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary in Chongqing. The consular pool of the mission covers five provinces in Central-Western China in addition to the city of Chongqing. These are Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu and Shaanxi, encompassing a population of more than 200 million. In addition to the consular activities, the Consulate General will have the important task of exploring the economic, commercial, cultural, educational and scientific-technical opportunities of China’s central and western region, as well as preparing specific cooperation projects.

At the official opening Mr Balázs emphasised that the year 2009 had been of outstanding importance for Hungarian-Chinese relations in many respects. Intensive steps to develop relations with several regions had been taken, tied to the 60th anniversary of the uptake of diplomatic relations. One of the important steps was a decision by the Government of the Republic of Hungary to set up a Consulate General in Chongqing. This decision was of strategic importance, proving in practice that Hungary seeks long-term, multifaceted cooperation with China. Our efforts to build ties included a special focus on fast-developing inner areas of China. The head of Hungarian diplomacy especially thanked the Chinese authorities for cooperation on issuing the appropriate licenses for the operation of the Consulate General.

At talks with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Guangya, Mr Balázs emphasised that his second Chinese trip within a year was to underline our intention to pay greater attention to building relations in the Asian and Pacific Ocean region, and within that, the People’s Republic of China. Our external relations strategy, and Hungarian diplomacy as a whole, considers China one its foremost priorities outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Mr Balázs and Mr Wang welcomed the buoyant development of the two countries’ relations, as well as the fact that high-level meetings are frequent and investment opportunities thriving. Bilateral trade turnover has risen 15-fold over the past decade, reaching 7.2 billion dollars in 2008; in 2009, it came to 6.8 billion dollars despite the global economic crisis. Within that, Hungarian exports grew by 4% compared to the previous year. Mr Balázs emphasised that Hungary, as the member of the EU trio presidency, will pay special attention to advancing cooperation between the Union and China during its turn at the presidency in the first half of 2011.

The two partners reviewed pivotal international issues, such as the role of the G20 – the greatest economic powers of the world – in finding an exit out of the economic crisis. On the subject of the financial crisis, it was agreed that the G20 can play a substantive role in the future, too. The Chinese side stated it was important that other countries besides those of the G20 should also have their voices heard.

Discussing crisis areas individually, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran were raised. As regards Afghanistan, the ministers focused on economic development; without that, there is a danger that social disappointment will grow and extremist views gain ground. They also agreed that maintaining dialogue was the best solution for peacefully resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, while Mr Balázs said it was very important to understand Iran’s intentions clearly.

At talks in Chongqing, the city’s mayor and Bo Xilai, the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Chongqing Committee, welcomed the spectacular development of the two countries’ relations and opportunities lying therein. The local officials gave a briefing on the region’s infrastructure and transport development plans. A government goal is to create a business and economic centre in central and western China. A railway development will enable Chinese goods to reach the European continent in 12 days. They regarded the Hungarian government’s decision to open the Consulate General as a wise move, which would doubtless strengthen cooperation between the two countries. They are convinced that Hungary can become a bridgehead both between China and Europe.

Mr Balázs emphasised that Hungary can benefit most from the advantages of China’s economic expansion as a regional hub of the country’s economic activities targeting Central Europe. Given Hungary’s geographical location, Chinese goods can not only reach inner European Union markets but also open up neighbouring markets such as those of Ukraine.

The head of Hungarian diplomacy delivered a lecture at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. In his speech entitled “The European Union after the Lisbon Treaty, EU-China relations”, Mr Balázs said that the creation of the new institutional structure had enabled the Union, after a long time, to finally turn its attention to new cooperation opportunities and elaborate them with content. He addressed Hungary’s role in the trio presidency that got under way on January 1. He confirmed that Hungary’s six-month presidency will have the important goal of further strengthening EU-China relations.

Hungarian ambassadors stationed in Australia, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, China, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the head of liaison office in Taiwan attended the meeting of regional mission leaders. The ambassadors gave thematic presentations assessing the implementation of Asia policy grouped into four main subjects: the role of the G20, the effect of the Lisbon Treaty on EU relations with Asia-Pacific region, the local assessment of the Copenhagen climate conference, and the chances of orchestrating a new security policy structure in the Asia-Pacific region.

In Shanghai, Péter Balázs held talks with Tang Dengjie, the vice mayor of the city, and Hu Jinjun, the deputy head of the EXPO Coordination Office. Besides this, he paid a visit to the Hungarian pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai world expo. He sought out some of the heritage-listed buildings designed by Hungarian architect László Hudec, and participated at a dinner given by Zhang Huiguang, the deputy chairman of the Shanghai Assembly.

The Foreign Minister gave a speech at the China-Europe Business School in Shanghai, in which he outlined what changes the Lisbon Treaty means for the European Union and what effect these will have on EU-China relations. At a separate meeting, Mr Balázs responded to questions by local and foreign journalists.

(February 5, 2010)