BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - The prime ministers of Romania and Hungary on Wednesday hailed the improvement of relations between their countries after Romania joined the European Union, and signed 15 bilateral agreements at a meeting in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu.
«We have had a long period of difficulties but we have gradually managed to improve relations and to arrive at this stage of cooperation,» said Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
Relations between the neighbors have often been tense over the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transylvania, which used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and is now in Romania.
On Wednesday, the two prime ministers signed documents agreeing to cooperate in the fields of agriculture, customs, religion, industry, labor and culture.
Romanian and Hungarian relations began to thaw in 1996 when a friendship treaty was signed. The party that represents the interests of the 1.4 million ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania has been in several Romanian governments since then.
Tariceanu praised Hungary for opening its labor markets to Romanians.
«As the prime minister and a liberal I believe in the fundamental principle of citizens being able to choose the country they work in,» he said, adding that Romania was not pushing its citizens to work abroad because it is facing a labor shortage.
Romania has 2 million citizens working abroad, mainly in Spain and Italy.
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said that relations between the neighbors had improved since Romania joined the EU on Jan. 1. «Romania has found a strong ally» in Hungary, he said.
The two discussed road and rail links, energy sources, the environment, culture and tourism. Tariceanu said that bilateral business could be increased and there could be more Romanian and Hungarian tourists visiting the other's country.