24 April 2003 | Mark Whitehead
Opening up supply chains to the East is a priority for Hungary in the run-up to joining the European Union, the country's minister for the economy and transport told a major conference last week.
Dr Istvan Csillag told members of the International Purchasing and Supply Education and Research Association (Ipsera) that Hungary aimed to become a "bridgehead" between the EU and the growing economies of the former Soviet Union and China.
He was giving the keynote opening address to the Ipsera conference in Budapest two days after Hungary's voters chose to join the EU.
It is expected to join in May next year, along with nine other eastern European and Mediterranean countries including Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland.
Csillag told the conference of 200 academics and supply chain professionals: "Our links with EU countries are strong and have helped us to develop supply chains to the West.
"Now we need to take advantage of growing markets in the former Soviet bloc and China by opening links to the East."
He said exports to eastern countries that could be expanded included cars and equipment for the oil industry.
Joining the EU would attract more foreign investment and the country's infrastructure would be improved by taking advantage of grants from Brussels.
The national development plan, adopted recently in preparation for EU membership, focused on developing the small business sector and promoting foreign investment.
Csillag said Hungarians were "optimistic" about the future, but there was a pressing need to modernise business practices in the country's rural areas.