In a press conference after a meeting in Budapest between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Orbán said the energy, economic and cultural partnership is equally important for Hungary and the EU. After honoring Aliyev, and the memory of his father and former president Heydar Aliyev, Orbán stated that Hungary is “a model state” within the EU not only because its economic growth “is among the highest”, but also because of its “good cooperation with secular bridge states between Europe and Asia, like Azerbaijan”. Ilham Aliyev thanked Orbán for receiving him and invited the prime minister for a visit to Baku “at a time of convenience”.
Orbán declared Azerbaijan and Hungary to be “models” of economic growth.
We deem Azerbaijan especially precious as it is a bridge between Europe and Asia. It is a secularized country and a model state with regard to its global energy sector. It is a respectable country with a respectable president, as well as his father Heydar Aliyev, whom we honor together with his family. Two countries have signed an agreement who have performed really well during the last years. Hungary’s 3% growth is miraculous by EU standards. Azerbaijan’s 5% and 10% growth is almost unprecedented.
The two leaders agreed on a joint student exchange program within the framework of which two hundred Azeri students will be able to secure scholarships in Hungary. The Hungarian government also plans to set up Hungarian educational institutions in the Caucasian country in the near future.
President Aliyev reciprocated Orbán’s greetings by praising Budapest and the performance of the Hungarian government. He announced that his country is embarking on a large-scale investment during which they will invest USD 45 billion constructing a gas pipeline alternative for Europe by 2019:
The cooperation future is bright in the field of energy. Azerbaijan is a new source of energy for the EU. We are happy to announce the construction of a new pipeline to Europe that will redraw Europe’s energy map. This is a new southern gas corridor. By 2019 we would be able to start gas shipments to European countries.
Aliyev briefly mentioned how successful earlier student exchanges had been at “cultural bridge building,” and how this will continue to be the case. THe Hungarian press interpreted this passage as an oblique reference to the Azeri government’s continuous gratitude to the Fidesz government for the 2012 extradition of convicted axe-murderer Ramil Safarov. Safarov had been sentenced to prison in Hungary for murdering his Armenian roommate during a military academy exchange. Upon Ramil’s return to Azerbaijan he was given a full presidential pardon and celebrated as a national hero.
The extradition cost Hungary its official diplomatic relations with Armenia.
Upon the Azeri president’s arrival in Budapest, Amnesty International Hungary complied a top-ten list of human rights and rule of law abuses in the Caucasian country. According to Amnesty, Azerbaijan has not held completely free and fair elections since 1995, a personal cult of the Aliyev family is persistent and journalists are frequently imprisoned for criticizing the president andhis family or exposing corruption.
Amnesty also says freedom of religion is virtually non-existent in Azerbaijan.
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