Prime Minister Hun Sen has been told by his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Budapest on Friday that his country “will always stand by Cambodia” as the Kingdom faces the potential loss of its access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement.
The Cambodian Prime Minister returned home on Sunday after meeting top politicians in the Hungarian capital and attending the fifth Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (Cica) in Tajikistan that ran from Thursday to Saturday.
Hun Sen met Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, President Janos Ader and Speaker of the National Assembly Laszlo Kover on Friday.
The three Hungarian leaders expressed their support for Cambodia regarding EBA, saying the European Parliament must give Cambodia justice.
“It is a conflict between the EU and Cambodia, but Hungary will always stand by Cambodia. Hungary especially does not support [mixing] politics, trade and economics."
“Please [Hun Sen], trust Hungary in advocating with the EU with regards to EBA,” Orban said, according to Hun Sen’s official Facebook page.
The Hungarian prime minister said Hungarian companies were interested in investing in Cambodia.
The EU monitoring process as part of the EBA withdrawal procedure is set to conclude in mid-August, with a report on its findings to be released soon after. The Kingdom will have one month to respond to its findings.
Cambodia exported $11.2 billion worth of goods last year, 46 per cent of which was shipped to the EU, making it the Kingdom’s second largest export market after China, the Ministry of Commerce has said.
Separately, three memorandums of understanding were signed in Budapest, including agreements on economic cooperation and educational exchanges from 2020-22 between Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and Hungary’s Ministry of Human Resources.
An agreement on cooperation between Cambodia’s National Tourism Institute and the Milton Friedman University in the fields of human resources and tourism was also inked.
The prime minister will return to Hungary in October to attend an unspecified summit, Hun Sen’s Facebook page said.
On Saturday, Hun Sen attended which was participated in by 27 member states and observer countries.
In his speech to the plenary session, Hun Sen raised global security, new threats and trade tensions between the US and China, which he called “a new cold war”.
He said few countries had ever benefited from interference from other nations, rather they had been plagued by war.
“The interference in Libya, Iraq and Syria shows us that meddling in the internal affairs and sovereignty of other countries does not improve their situation. Rather, it leaves behind the tragedy and suffering of innocent people, destruction and ruin in civil wars."
“Moreover, the selfish use of power, protectionist policies and the impact of sanctions, economic pressure and the withdrawal of trade preferences – without caring about common interests – threaten the security and development of many countries,” Hun Sen told Cica.
He said Cambodia was seeking trade and investment opportunities with Cica member states, especially for small and medium enterprises.
Cica members should work closely with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which would provide good opportunities in improving regional connections and strengthening transport systems and logistics, Hun Sen said.
The prime minister also met on the sidelines with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that what the Hungarian statesmen had said showed “good heart” towards Cambodia, but whether it could help the Kingdom depended on the EU constitution.
“Hungary’s good heart reflects a close relationship with Cambodia. When the US [put a ban on] Huawei, Hungary made a partnership with the company. So Hungary wanting to have economic ties with Asean is political,” Touch said.
He said while Cambodia must show the EU that it does not want to lose EBA access, it also had to make it clear it could not accept anything that affected sovereignty.
Touch raised Myanmar as one country that has access to EBA despite reports of grave human rights abuses on its Rohingya minority, while communist Laos was not a democracy.
Regarding interference in Iraq, Syria and Libya, Touch said the US and its allies cared only about furthering their own interests and were not concerned with how the people in those countries were affected.
“If they wanted to change those countries to make them democratic like those in Europe or the US, it is a dream because they cannot become like them without changing their culture,” Touch said.