Hungarian-Azeri cooperation holds great opportunities, announced Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Sunday at the conclusion of a two-day state visit to Baku.
The previous day Orbán held discussions with his Azeri counterpart, Artur Rasizade. Representatives of the two countries then signed a declaration of intent to create an information and communication technologies development. Representatives of Semmelweis University in Hungary and the Azeri Medical College signed a declaration of their intent to cooperate.
On Sunday the Hungarian head of government met Azeri President Ilham Aliyev at the presidential palace near Baku. At the press conference which followed, Orbán said Hungary sees that oil prices are causing economic difficulties, but observes approvingly how Azerbaijan is reacting to the new situation. He said it was not possible to continue economic polices as before, and in this Hungary could be a good partner in helping Azerbaijan adjust through cooperation in such areas as agriculture, information technology and energy.
Aliyev said Hungary is a close friend of Azerbaijan and the connection was of a strategic nature.
According to Wikipedia, “Ilham Heydar oghlu Aliyev is the fourth and current dictator President of Azerbaijan, in office since 2003.” He was preceded as president by his father and former Azeri communist strongman-turned-nationalist leader Heydar Aliyev.
“Hungary needs reliable partners”
At the opening of a Hungarian-Azeri business forum, Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said Hungary greatly needed “dependable, reliable partners,” and Azerbaijan was a “stable partner, ally and friend of Hungary.”
He said 2015 was an unusual year for Hungary, Europe and the world, which had faced challenges not previously calculated with, and in order to be successful while meeting challenges it was necessary to have reliable partners.
Stating that it was necessary to modify the structure of Hungarian-Azeri economic relations, Szijjártó identified five areas in which the two countries could develop closer relations, namely the IT sector, infrastructure development, water management, energy and agriculture. He said the basis for Hungarian-Azeri relations was “mutual respect and friendship” and “every condition was present for the formation of a mutually beneficial economic cooperation.” It was not possible to ignore world changes and it was necessary to take into consideration world political developments, Szijjártó said. It was necessary to encourage bilateral cooperation so as to enable both countries “to confront challenges more easily.”
$200 million Eximbank loan
He noted that Wizz Air would soon start direct flights between Budapest and Baku, and this too would help in the development of Hungarian-Azeri bilateral cooperation, which Szijjártó told reporters was “entering a new dimension” thanks to the Hungarian government arranging a USD 200 million credit facility with the Eximbank to finance bilateral commercial relations.
The foreign minister said 44 Hungarian companies and 49 businessmen participated in the forum, and 116 Azeri companies were represented at the event.
Pharmaceutical and health industry cooperation
The previous day Hungarian Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga stated in Baku that Hungary was exceptionally interested in developing commercial and energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, and had especially high hopes in expanding pharmaceutical and health industry cooperation.
In a statement given to state news agency MTI, Varga announced that he had met Azeri Minister for Economy and Industry Shahin Mustafayev as part of the delegation led by Orbán. Varga emphasized that Azerbaijan has the most dynamically growing economy in the South Caucasus and is Hungary’s most important partner of all the countries in the region. Varga added that trade volume had increased since 2013 despite a significiant decrease in oil prices. He said Hungarian exports to Azerbaijan last year exceeded USD 65 million, and pharmaceutical products made up half of this.
Varga said the parties had agreed to expand their cooperation in the pharmaceutical and health industries and that Hungarian companies are prepared to participate in the development of the Azeri pharmaceutical industry and form joint ventures. He said that in the interest of increasing the level of trade he had recommended mutual projects and extending cooperation to other fields.
During the two-day business forum, Varga signed a declaration of intent with the Azeri Minister for Employment and Social Matters Salim Muslumov. The parties confirmed that they would continue to exchange experience and knowledge on, among other things, “models of technical training and labor markets.”
Varga said the “innovative Hungarian labor market measures,” which “had brought significant results in the past few years,” could be “useful to the Azeri partners seeking to create a strong economy that stands on many legs.”
Flowers for Aliyev
Orbán’s program included placing a floral wreath at the monument to the father of the current Azeri president, former communist strongman Heydar Aliyev.
Appointed head of the Azeri KGB in 1967 at the age of 44, he became general secretary of the Azeri Communist Party Central Committee five years later.
In 1982 Yuri Andropov took him to Moscow to become first deputy prime minister of the Soviet Union. Daily online propeller.hu writes:
“There can be no dispute that under his leadership the economy greatly improved, but that meanwhile Aliyev cooperated until the end with the local mafia in the black trade in oil, Caspian Sea caviar, grass and fruit, and he was merciless towards his opponents.” The online daily said the elder Aliyev was forced to resign in 1987 by Mihail Gorbacsov but was never seriously investigated for corruption.
After Azerbajdzan became an independent country, Aliyev reinvited himself as an Azeri nationalist. After the democratically elected president Abulfaz Elcsibej was forced to resign and emigrate, Aliyev became the new head of state. Propeller.hu writes that he was as ruthless and heavy-handed as president as he had been during Soviet times. The online daily also notes that the Hungarian prime minister who is quick to denounce his opponents at home laid a wreath at the grave of the former communist leader.