Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday thanked Prime Minister Viktor Orban the Hungarian government’s donation to the costs of renovating Subotica’s (Szabadka) synagogue.
In a ceremony reopening the synagogue in the city which has a sizeable ethnic Hungarian minority, Vucic thanked Orban, saying that without his personal support and Hungary’s financial contribution, “Serbia’s most magnificent building” would not have been refurbished. “I am proud that after more than four decades, a new chapter can begin in the life of the synagogue,” he said.
Orban said at the inauguration ceremony:
“It is our moral duty to stand up for a Hungary and Europe in which Jews and Christians can live and practise their faiths without fear.”
He said the inauguration sent the message that “this is the kind of world and the kind of Europe that we want to live in, that we represent and that we can protect.” The Hungarian premier said that while Europeans today enjoy religious freedom, “if we allow Europe’s cultural subsoil to be changed, then others will write the future instead of us.”
He noted that the government had declared 2014 a Holocaust Memorial Year, and launched a programme to renovate synagogues. The government spent 10 billion forints (EUR 31,900) on the programme, he said. The prime minister said there are “many places” where Jews and Christians face persecution, and such an inauguration could not take place, adding that there were also places in western Europe where churches and synagogues were being demolished instead of renovated.
Orban: Serbia’s minority protection ‘model for Europe’
Serbia’s model of minority protection is an example to the whole of Europe, Orban said. At a joint press conference after meeting Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, Orban said Serbia had managed to align national pride and a commitment to territorial integrity with autonomy granted to its minorities, while at the same time ensuring and encouraging the functioning of their institutions. Hungary urges the European Union to consider Serbia as a source of untapped potential capable of boosting the EU’s strengths.
Orban said Serbia could always count on Hungary to support its EU aspirations. As an EU member, Hungary knows that the bloc needs Serbia, Orban said, adding that Serbia represented “a great opportunity” rather than a problem for the EU. He said the EU should add more ambitious nations to its ranks. The bloc should expand, grow and become stronger, Orban said. It should be more active and successful in the Western Balkans, and Serbia is important and a “great asset” to the EU in this respect, the prime minister added.
Orban said Serbia had shown the whole world that its leadership can provide stability. As regards the economy, Serbia’s indicators show that its path to economic progress is laid out before it, he said. He welcomed Serbia’s progress, saying that its success was also in Hungary’s interest.
Vucic said Hungarian-Serbian political and economic relations had reached a pinnacle. No unresolved issues hamper ties, which, he added, could serve as an example to other countries. The president said Orban’s personal efforts had been vital in elevating bilateral ties to such a high level. He added that Serbia’s policymakers had the same goal in mind, and cooperation between the two countries ensured the well-being of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia.
Vucic said he was “certain” Orban would remain as Hungary’s prime minister after the country’s general election on April 8. Orban has demonstrated that he gives priority to the policy of peace and stability, Vucic said. He noted that Hungary had always supported Serbia during its EU accession talks and had given every possible assistance to Serbia’s European integration. “Serbia will always be a sincere and reliable partner of Hungary,” he said. Vucic noted that the value of two-way trade had amounted to 1.5 billion euros in 2017, up 22.3 percent from the previous year’s figure.
Source and photo: MTI