Singapore and Hungary yesterday agreed to boost economic cooperation as well as partnerships in aviation, education and food safety.
Bilateral ties are steadily strengthening as is two-way trade, which crossed $1.14 billion last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted.
He was speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after the signing of three agreements. Both sides are keen to further economic cooperation, the leaders said.
"Hungary provides an excellent gateway for Singapore and Asean to Central and Eastern Europe," said Mr Lee. "And Singapore is a trading and financial hub located in the middle of South-east Asia, which Hungary should make full use of to access the growing Asean market."
Both he and Mr Orban, who is in town for a two-day visit, agreed it was important for their countries to remain open to free trade.
Mr Orban, speaking in Hungarian, noted that he had brought along a sizeable business delegation, and said Hungary is keen on finding more opportunities to work with Singapore. "We highly appreciate the stability of Singapore," he said, noting that Hungary believes the future belongs to countries that are stable in the long term, both politically and economically.
"This continues to be our greatest challenge in Europe... how to provide security and safety, while at the same time remaining competitive."
The three agreements signed yesterday will also help break down barriers in their fields, he said.
One, between Hungary's Ministry of Human Capacities and Singapore's Education Ministry, will encourage educational institutions to explore opportunities for student exchanges and internships. Hungary will also offer 30 scholarships a year for Singaporeans to pursue degrees there.
The second agreement will provide a framework for Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the National Food Chain Safety Office of Hungary to work together in the field of food safety.
Singapore and Hungary also signed an air transport agreement that will, among other things, allow their airlines to fly any number of direct services between their countries. Mr Lee thanked Mr Orban for Hungary's support for the air transport agreement as well as for the ratification of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
"These agreements will further enrich our bilateral relations, and underline our commitment to greater economic integration and trade liberalisation," he said.
Mr Orban also had a ceremonial welcome at the Istana and called on President Halimah Yacob. He ended his day at a banquet hosted by Mr Lee, who noted that both sides have collaborated in areas ranging from sports to science, and said: "I am confident your visit will spur greater cooperation and exchanges between our two countries and peoples, and our two regions."
Mr Orban noted that both countries have much in common, having had to rely on their people and talent instead of natural resources.
He invited Mr Lee to Budapest and, to laughter, spoke of a Hungarian saying that "only dead fish swim with the current". "It means all nations need their own formula. Some have to swim against the current to be successful," he said. "We respect your country because you were able to find that magic formula."
Mr Orban hoped that after the visit, "Hungarians will understand how to be brave enough to find a new magic formula".