First joint working meeting of Slovenian and Hungarian governments seen as success


Slovenia and Hungary share only a short border. But both countries are linked by their minorities within each other's borders, with most living near the line where the two states meet. Last week Hungary and Slovenia made history, when for the first time ever their governments held a joint working meeting. The conference is being seen as a success, as Radio Slovenia International's Ksenija Samardzija Matul reports.

Both Hungary and Slovenia have small minorities living in their borderlands. Some 7,000 Hungarians are on the Slovenian side of the border, while Hungary has about 5,000 Slovenes. But whereas Slovenia and Austria or Slovenia and Italy have often had prickly relations regarding minorities, those between Hungary and Slovenia are good. The Slovenian government provides half a billion euros for the minority, as well as television and radio shows in Hungarian. Business cooperation is also on the rise. Trade between the two countries passed one billion euros last year.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa:

"We are very happy about the dynamics in the field of economics and in all the other fields of cooperation between the two countries. Business cooperation shows accelerated growth in bilateral trade, forecasting 30% growth for this year. I believe this will provide a firm basis for greater prosperity in both countries, and hence for both ethnic minorities too."

Relations are only set to improve, especially when the two countries enter the Schengen zone in December, which allows passport-free travel. The head of the Slovenian minority in Hungary allowed that the situation could be better; among other things the Slovenian minority would like its own member of parliament. This is the case in Slovenia, where minorities are guaranteed a representative. Hungary's Slovenian community would also like more financial support, and more opportunities for bilingual education.

These topics were raised when the prime ministers Janez Jansa and Ferenc Gyurcsany met in Lendava, by the border. The first joint government session between the two tackled a number of issues besides minority issues. Several agreements were signed, including: a memorandum of intent for upgrading the currently weak rail links, cooperation in agriculture, e-government and the touchy issue of war graves from the Second World War.

As a show of good will, the Prime Ministers laid a foundation stone for a new road connecting the two countries. A Hungarian company also got the go-ahead to construct a new bus and railway station in Ljubljana. Both sides are also eager to increase the amount of trade. Currently, Hungary only receives 2.3% of Slovenian exports. Imports from Hungary are similarly modest, making up just 3.7% of Slovenia's imports.