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Orbán meets Chinese premier ahead of Belt and Road Forum

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum later this week, according to a report by state news agency MTI. Orbán arrived in the Chinese capital after an official trip to Kazakhstan.

Orbán and Li Keqiang (photo: Balázs Szecsődi/Prime Ministerʼs Press Office)

Orbán said at the talks that Chinaʼs Belt and Road Initiative is “in full accordance” with the national interests of Hungary. “We Hungarians need an open global economy,” he added. 

Orbán said that Hungary wants to participate in the initiative and would not bend to “any kind of external ideological pressure,” adding that the Hungarian government will always pursue Hungaryʼs national interests. He noted that Chinese investments in Hungary add up to USD 4.5 billion.

Li Keqiang acknowledged the close ties between China and Hungary and said they could be expanded into new areas, such as digitalization. He said the two countriesʼ cooperation presents a great opportunity not only for big companies, but also for Chinese and Hungarian SMEs.

After the meeting, bilateral agreements were signed on the establishment of a Hungarian-Chinese cooperation center, on continued partnerships in the area of sport, on the “Digital Silk Road,” on setting up a working group to promote free trade, and on exports of Hungarian poultry to China.

Orbán will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later during his visit to Beijing. On Friday and Saturday, he will participate at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, joining other heads of government and state from around the world.

Kazakhstan talks

Ahead of his visit to Beijing, Orbán also made an official trip to Kazakhstan, where he held talks with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

Speaking in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Orbán said that while the balance between the East and the West has changed, Hungary does not see this new situation as a threat, but as a source of opportunities which it wants to use by building ever stronger relations with countries in the East, according to official government website kormany.hu.

“We tend to forget that democracy means more than the people being able to vote in elections and being given a chance to become involved in debate on public affairs,” the prime minister was quoted as saying. “According to the ancient Greek concept, democracy also means a form of government in which freedom of opinion and participation must eventually find expression in effective and stable governance.”

Orbán concluded that this is why the most successful countries today are those with the most stable political systems, and in recent years Kazakhstan has been at the forefront in terms of stability.

The prime minister added that in the coming days a Hungarian business delegation of around 100 people will arrive in Kazakhstan to explore further avenues of cooperation.

Tokayev stressed that Hungary is an important partner for Kazakhstan in the EU and in the Central European region, that the two countries have shared political and economic interests, and that they are linked by historical roots. He recalled that Hungary was the first Central European country to sign a strategic partnership pact with Kazakhstan, thus proving that the two countries understand each other and are seeking to strengthen their cooperation.