20 Mar

EU assistance for Jordan must be increased

“The level of European Union funding provided to Jordan must be increased in the interests of handling the refugee issue”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a press conference in Amman on Wednesday.

“If Jordan is not capable of handling the challenge posed by the refugee issue, hundreds of thousands of people will set out towards Europe, causing tensions within the European Union, which is something we would like to avoid”, the Minister said, stressing that Hungary appreciates Amman’s efforts to admit refugees from neighbouring war-torn regions extremely highly.

The Minister said Hungary is applying an extremely strict anti-immigration policy, and believes that the European Commission’s migration policy is extremely damaging and dangerous from the perspective of both the EU and the Middle Eastern region, because the EC’s policy is practically equal to an invitation, with which it is encouraging people to risk their lives in large numbers and pay millions to people smugglers to be able to leave the region and set out for Europe.

“We believe that assistance must be taken to where it is needed. We must assure that people who are forced to leave their homes can remain as close to home as possible, so that they can return when the conflict is over”, the Minister said at his English language press conference.

In addition, according to the recording provided to Hungarian news agency MTI, the Minister also underlined that the European Union should sign a free trade agreement with Jordan to enable goods and services to reach the European market unhindered.

“Hungary is glad that the EU has extended the scope of the trade allowances afforded to Jordan until 2030, but it is no cause for joy that there is not a full free trade agreement between Jordan and the EU”, he underlined.

Mr. Szijjártó highlighted the fact that Jordan deserves respect for its treatment of Christian communities, because they regard Christians as an integral part of Jordanian society, and not as a minority.

“If every country in the region regarded Christians in the way Jordan does, then the region would be much happier and safer place”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said, recalling that the Hungarian Government has donated 1.3 million euros to Christian communities in Jordan to help them realise tourism investment projects, in addition to which is has provided 700 thousand euros in funding towards the construction of a church on the banks of the River Jordan,on the site where Jesus was baptized according to the Bible.

“We have provided funding for the renovation and operation of schools in Christian communities in the interests of reducing the burdens being placed on the Jordanian state by having to provide education to the refugees who are arriving here in increasing numbers”, Mr. Szijjártó pointed out.

The Minister highlighted the fact that Hungary and Jordan are fighting side-by-side against terrorism, both countries are taking part in the fight against the Islamic State, and Budapest and Amman have tightened their defence cooperation.

Mr. Szijjártó also mentioned that over the past two years Hungary has held bomb disposal training courses for Jordanian soldiers, and the program will continue this year: twenty Jordanian soldiers will be taking part in a training course of this kind in Hungary.

The Hungarian Government is also providing 400 scholarships-a-year to enable Jordanian students to attend university in Hungary, he stated.

“We regard this as an excellent investment, because we feel that students who receive their diplomas in Hungary are the goodwill ambassadors for relations between the two countries”, the Minister said, highlighting the fact that Jordan is sending the most scholarship students to Hungary “and we will continue to maintain this level in future”.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported on the fact that Eximbank has opened a 90-million-dollar credit line to facilitate Jordanian-Hungarian business cooperation, particularly within the field of water management. Mr. Szijjártó told the press that Jordan has the world’s second lowest water stocks, and Hungarian companies are frontrunners within this field.

“The Minister of Water and I agreed that Hungarian companies will be coming to Jordan and will hopefully take part in making Jordanian city water networks more efficient”, Mr. Szijjártó announced.

The Hungarian Foreign Minister also mentioned that Hungary had opened a trade representation in Jerusalem the day before, in view of the fact that Hungarian-Israeli economic relations are vital to Hungary.

“From the perspective of its economic success, the level at which Hungary is capable of taking part in automotive industry innovations, for instance within the field of self-driven vehicles, is a determining factor, and Israeli companies are the most highly developed within this field”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined.

“I would like to stress, however, that our embassy in is Tel-Aviv, and no plans for changing this are on the agenda”, the Minister said, making it clear that the Hungarian standpoint with relation to the Middle East peace process is in line with official EU policy.

The Minister informed MTI that the Jordanian Foreign Minister greatly appreciated the visit by his Hungarian counterpart, because this is the first time that Mr. Szijjártó has visited the country. Ayman Safadi also thanked Hungary for its support, highlighting the assistance provided to Iraqi Christians.