Hungary backs speedy Montenegro accession

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Hungary, the largest investor in Montenegro, is supporting the country's accession to the European Union. The integration into the EU of the Western Balkans is a top priority of the Hungarian government and its EU presidency in early 2011 will be a prime opportunity to promote the Montenegrin cause. EURACTIV Hungary reports.

Hungary, like the EU and NATO, has acknowledged the efforts Montenegro has made in its preparations for integration.

The EU has accepted Montenegro's accession request and NATO has included it in its Action Plan for prospective members. Montenegro was among the first of the Balkan countries to gain the right to enter the Schengen area without visa requirements.

In March this year, Péter Balázs, the former Hungarian foreign minister, said Hungary was willing to provide Montenegro with expertise and share its experiences in order to help the country move closer to the EU and NATO.

Balázs stressed that Montenegro could serve as an example in the Balkan region, because it strives for friendly relations with all its neighbours. Regional integration is also an important factor for EU accession.

Hungary was among the first to recognise Montenegro's independence in 2006 and had already opened a consulate in Podgorica in 2005. Relationship-building began even earlier, with mutual visits at the highest level.

Former foreign minister Balázs paid an official visit to Montenegro on 25 March 2010, where he discussed bilateral and international matters with his counterpart, Milan Ro?en. The international issues discussed were mainly related to the EU and NATO. The two figures stated that political relations between the countries are excellent.

Economic ties between the two countries are equally close. Montenegro is the smallest country in the region, and since its independence it has been the fastest developing. Having claimed independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro was expected to fail economically but soon proved everyone wrong: it is now widely seen as the most investment-friendly Balkan state of the last few years.

The country, open for new relationships, has offered and is still offering great opportunities to Hungary as regards investment and trade. Hungary soon became its largest investor, mainly as a result of the Magyar Telekom (formerly known as MATÁV) deal, which saw the company invest €110 million in Montenegro to acquire T-Crnogorski Telekom. A further €30 million was allocated to development.

Moreover, OTP, one of Hungary's largest banks, purchased CKB bank for €105 million and added a €25 million loan for improvement. Hunguest Hotel also invested in the country: they bought three hotels, along with other smaller investments.

Hungary: The biggest investor

Hungary is the biggest investor in Montenegro. Hungarian companies are present across its economy and particularly in the banking, telecommunications and tourism sectors.

As for bilateral trade relations, Hungary reached a surplus in 2008, which comprised mainly of exports of agricultural goods, building materials and electronic goods. Balázs stressed that Hungary is searching for new opportunities of mutual benefit and is urging Montenegro to make further improvements to its investment-friendly economic environment – not only to attract foreign companies, but also to ease their everyday operations.

Montenegro also plays an active role in international counter-terrorism and peacekeeping missions. Currently, its soldiers are serving as part of the Hungarian contingent in Afghanistan. They were trained in the Hungarian city of Szolnok.

During his visit, Balázs also met head of state Filip Vujanovi? and president of the parliament, Ranko Krivokapi?. Both expressed their gratitude for Hungary's unequivocal and continuous support for Montenegrin efforts towards European integration.

The former foreign minister ended his visit by meeting the leaders of the Hungarian companies operating in Montenegro. They stated that Hungarian diplomatic activities in the region have played a significant role in the success of their businesses in Montenegro.

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