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Sri Lanka, Hungary explore new ways to boost bilateral ties

Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana was in Budapest for bilateral discussions with the Hungary Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó last Friday. The visit, undertaken at the invitation of the Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjártó, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Hungary this year (since February 1959).

Underlining Sri Lanka’s keenness to deepen its bilateral engagement with the Eastern and Central European countries, Minister Marapana said that advancing cooperation with the Republic of Hungary across a broad policy range was central to this effort.

Already, bilateral economic and financial cooperation was robust within the framework of the Sri Lanka-Hungary Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation and the ‘Agreement of Establishment of a Framework Program for Financial Cooperation’ signed in December 2017.

The agreed areas of cooperation, following the first session of the Joint Commission in March includes agriculture and the food economy, SMEs development, water management and waste water treatment, education, science and technology, disaster management, wellness tourism and renewable energy.

Tangible proposals for public-private partnerships have been identified under most of these areas. The two Ministers also reviewed the current status of four projects to be implemented under Hungary’s tied aid credit program.

These are the Bingiriya – Udubaddawa water supply project (53 million euros), construction of flyovers – Kohuwala and Gatambe (52 million euros), 148 railway level crossing protection (12 million euros) and electronic court management system (32 million euros). Rehabilitation of water treatment plants in Labugama ($ 22.5 million) and Kalatuwawa ($ 23.4 million), respectively, were implemented in 2017.

Minister Marapana thanked the Government (HUF 11 million) and people of Hungary (HUF 9 million) for the immediate humanitarian assistance of HUF 20 million (65,000 euros) provided for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. He briefed Foreign Minister Szijjártó on the Government’s committed efforts to promote national reconciliation, good governance and inclusive economic development.

He also highlighted the challenges Sri Lanka continued to face in this transformational journey. In response, Foreign Minister Szijjártó, while welcoming the positive developments in Sri Lanka, including in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks, said that Hungary was mindful of the difficulties Sri Lanka faced in that journey and reaffirmed his Government’s full support for the country’s development programs and outreach to the EU and the international community.

During the visit, Minister Marapana met with Deputy Speaker Istvan Jakab of the Hungarian National Assembly in the context of the Hungary-Sri Lanka Friendship Group established in the Assembly in 2018. He also met with Dr. Andras Veres, Bishop of the Diocese of Szombathely to personally extend appreciation for coordinating the immediate funding assistance from Hungarian Catholic well-wishers for the affected in Sri Lanka.

Minister Marapana led an interactive session with the CEOs of the Hungarian companies involved with the four development projects under the tied aid credit program.

A familiarisation visit to the Bio Fungi agro food facility specialising in mushroom cultivation and value addition, was included in the bilateral segment of the visit.

Setting up a pilot project in Sri Lanka was discussed with General Manager Arpad Mutsy.

Sri Lanka Charge d’ Affaires Irosha Cooray and Foreign Ministry Director General Dhammika Semasinghe were associated with the official visit and the discussions held.

 

(FT)

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