Romania, Hungary hold joint governmental meeting, sign accords

photo131.jpgEmphasising the importance of leaving behind historical disputes, Romania and Hungary vowed on Thursday (November 16th) to work together in the EU and to promote common and regional interests.

We will co-operate “for the consolidation of a united Europe, a Europe based on the fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the state of law,” Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said, quoting a declaration he and his Hungarian counterpart, Ferenc Gyurcsany, signed at the end of a daylong joint governmental session in Budapest.

Taking place less than seven weeks before Romania’s entry into the EU on January 1st, the meeting — the second in this format in 13 months — focused on the co-ordination of the two countries’ economic development plans and joint projects in various sectors, including transportation and infrastructure.

One of the issues discussed Thursday was a project for the construction of a gold mine at Rosia Montana in Romania, some 190km east of the country’s border with Hungary. The project involves the use of a cyanide-based technology for the extraction of gold. Hungary is worried about the potential for an environmental catastrophe similar to the one caused by another Romanian mine in 2000.

“We are full of concerns because we have questions about a series of issues,” the AP quoted Gyurcsany as saying at a joint press conference with Tariceanu after Thursday’s meeting.

Tariceanu assured him that the project, which is opposed by Greenpeace and other environmental watchdogs, “will be carried out if all international and European environmental criteria” are met. “At the moment it is too early to give an opinion since not all of the [environmental impact] studies have been completed,” he added, promising, “total transparency”.

Another item on the agenda concerned the issue of autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in Romania. The countries still differ over this.

According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, a total of ten agreements were signed at the end of the meeting, including on EU-related activities, the Danube and Tisza rivers, simplifying the cross-border regime and on projects in the infrastructure and transport sectors, including the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the cities of Szeged in Hungary and Arad in Romania. The two cabinets also agreed on the establishment of a joint commission to work on the drafting of a common history handbook by 2010.

Speaking at Thursday’s joint press conference with Tariceanu, Gyurcsany said Hungary plans to partially open its labour market to Romanians after their country joins the EU.

“We want to open it up as much as we can without endangering Hungarian interests,” Gyurcsany said. He also announced plans to establish a 12m-euro – 19m-euro fund in support of small and medium Hungarian enterprises that want to enter the Romanian market

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