Central European countries urge start of free-trade talks between EU, Australia


The Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) support the start of free-trade talks between the European Union (EU) and Australia, Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto said Friday.

"We support the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU to make a decision by the end of February and to start negotiations in spring," Szijjarto said.

According to the Hungarian minister, Central European Countries (CEE) are the economic engine of the EU, shown by the fact that Australia's interest has turned towards Central Europe.

"Cooperation with Australia would give a competitive edge to the Visegrad Countries, which are stepping up cooperation in the fields of innovation, education and research and development," Szijjarto underlined.

Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo said that his country wishes to develop investments and trade relations with Europe and the Visegrad countries in particular, underlining that a strong Central European diaspora lived in Australia.

The main areas of cooperation could be in the fields of research and development and innovation, according to him.

"Visegrad co-operation is experiencing its renaissance and its member states have come to an economic turnaround. For Poland, the economic significance of Australia is far beyond its size, and to further strengthen relations, trade barriers must be broken down," Polish Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Jadwiga Emilewicz said.