Sri Lanka to enhance trade ties with Hungary 

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris expressed Sri Lanka’s keen interest to transform Sri Lanka-Hungary bilateral ties into a results-oriented, multifaceted partnership at a bilateral meeting with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó on Wednesday (12). 

Minister Szijjártó was on a working visit to Sri Lanka. The two ministers had productive discussions on a multitude of areas of bilateral interest. Prof. Peiris noted with appreciation Hungary’s empathetic approach towards Sri Lanka in addressing residual issues of reconciliation, and apprised the Hungarian Minister on progress in reconciliation and the credible domestic framework in process to promote and protect human rights, in keeping with the country’s international obligations. 

Prof. Peiris also noted that Hungary is a member of the EU, with which Sri Lanka maintains an important and abiding partnership. 

The two ministers highlighted the importance of broadening and deepening economic relations, including the promotion of trade, investment, and tourism ties in the current global context. Towards this end, the two ministers agreed to convene the second session of the Sri Lanka-Hungary Joint Commission on Economic Co-operation (JCEC) at an early date this year. Prof. Peiris referred to the need to optimise utilisation of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) facility in accessing the Hungarian market, as Sri Lanka’s key exports benefit from duty free access to the EU market. 

Interest was also expressed in the early conclusion of the Double Taxation Agreement between the two countries, as well as co-operation, inter alia, in science and technology, Ayurveda, and renewable energy.

During the visit, Minister Szijjártó, who was accompanied by a substantive business delegation from Hungary, launched the Sri Lanka-Hungary Business Forum in partnership with Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardena, under the aegis of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. 

Noting that development co-operation comprises an important element of the bilateral partnership, Prof. Peiris conveyed Sri Lanka’s appreciation to Hungary for providing infrastructure development assistance to Sri Lanka through a soft loan of € 52 million. 

The current projects include the construction of flyovers at Kohuwela and Gatambe. At the invitation of Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando, Minister Szijjártó visited the construction site of the Kohuwela flyover where the two ministers laid the foundation stone for the project.

Another fruitful outcome of Minister Szijjártó’s visit was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sri Lanka and Hungary on Co-operation within the Framework of the Stipendium Hungaricum Programme for the Years 2022-2024. 

Under the programme, Hungary offers 20 scholarships annually to qualified Sri Lankan students to undertake undergraduate and postgraduate studies in a wide array of academic fields including engineering, sciences, economics, and water management.