Following his meeting with the President of Russia, the Hungarian prime minister told reporters that the two countries have to cooperate within a difficult international environment, because – in Mr. Orbán’s words – “strongly anti-Russian sentiment in the western half of the continent and anti-Russian politics have become the fashion”.
Referring to the sanctions against Russia, the Prime Minister said that “This has caused major damage to both countries, and Hungary has suffered losses of 6.5 billion dollars”. Mr. Orbán stressed that problems of a non-economic nature cannot be handled with economic measures, and it is not right to transfer the conflict to the area of the economy. This will result in “everyone suffering and everyone losing out”, he said.
“It is difficult to imagine Hungary being successful if we do not develop open, strong and fruitful economic and trade cooperation with the major players in the global economy”, he added.
Hungarian water management companies will also receive opportunities in Russia
“Following investment projects by Hungarian agricultural enterprises, the Hungarian water management sector will now also be receiving opportunities in Russia, providing it can fend off competition”, Mr. Orbán said, adding that “Hungary is among the world’s frontrunners in this respect, so this represents a breakthrough from the perspective of Hungarian foreign trade”.
According to Mr. Orbán, “Thanks to dedicated and sometimes courageous work over the past few years, we have rescued and protected everything possible from Russian-Hungarian relations”. He said that Hungary has reserved a good starting-point, from which the Hungarian economy can relaunch in the Russian market “when the world returns to the logic of cooperation”.
Negotiations will soon begin on the transport of gas after 2021
The Prime Minister said that “Hungary will strive for open and transparent relations with Russia”, and therefore these will be reviewed once a year, at the highest level. He reminded his audience that his visit to Russia last year was now being returned by the Russian president. He added that the agreements made two years ago and one year ago have been honoured by both sides; the documents on regional cooperation have been signed; Hungary has opened a consulate in Kazan; and the foreign affairs consultation plan has been signed. The energy agreements have also been completed, he said, and so Hungary’s supply of gas is guaranteed up to 2021.
“Negotiations between the two countries will soon begin on the transport of natural gas from Russia to Hungary in the period following 2021”, Mr. Orbán announced.
In relation to Hungary’s gas supply, the Prime Minister said that one cannot ignore the issue of whether or not there is sufficient stability of supply through Ukraine to this region, and that “we are aware of numerous uncertainties”. He pointed that “Hungary has an interest in diversification, but the EU has prevented the construction of the South Stream pipeline. The Hungarian and Slovakian networks have been connected, but if required we may also receive gas from the north; this is something that Russia is not ruling out”.
The Prime Minister also said that what is important to Hungary is that in all circumstances Russian natural gas should reach Hungary, and this is something that the Russian president has guaranteed. As Croatia and Romania are not assuring the two-way flow of gas, the fact that President Putin has declared that Hungary will always receive the oil and gas it needs is extremely important, and “we will indeed take advantage of this opportunity”, Mr. Orbán stated.
With regard to the Paks Nuclear Power Plant expansion project, the Prime Minister told the press: “We have succeeded in removing most of the obstacles to nuclear cooperation between the two countries”. He stressed that the agreements conform to EU requirements, and that in the near future the European Commission is expected to decide on the last remaining open question. “The preparations for the Paks expansion project could begin as soon as this year, with the actual construction work commencing next year”, Mr. Orbán said.
The Prime Minister said that undertakings related to cultural cooperation have also been honoured. The two countries have granted university scholarships to each other’s students and the Government has decided to renovate four Russian Orthodox churches in Hungary; the budget for this has already been earmarked.
A balanced relationship with Russia is a precondition for peace in Europe
In reply to a question, the Prime Minister said that “alongside all possible national pride”, it must be clearly accepted that Russia and Hungary move in two different spheres, and it is a great virtue if “one knows one’s place”. Accordingly, he said, Hungary only sets targets that are in line with the country’s weight, size and influence. When Mr. Putin informed him about the situation in Syria, then in this regard Hungary is able to join those political and peacekeeping missions that involve the protection of Christians, he explained, because “this is what we are good at, and this is what we have the capacity for”. He added that “Hungary is also involved in some international issues in which it is unable to play a leading role”.
In reply to a question from the press, the Prime Minister declared that “There is a chance for the emergence of the precondition for European peace: a balanced and stable relationship between Russia and Europe, Russia and the European Union”. A sense that the world is undergoing major reorganisation “is in the air”, he said. The reorganisation now underway around us will create more favourable conditions for European-Russian cooperation – and within it Hungarian-Russian cooperation – than has been experienced in recent years, the Prime Minister said.
Hungary has an interest in a stable Ukraine
In reply to another question, Mr. Orbán declared that Hungary has an interest in Ukraine being a successful and stable state. The foundation of this, he said, is peace – which may be realised in accordance with the Minsk agreements. These agreements, he noted, include several elements that are also vital to members of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.
In relation to the possibility of substituting the Russian loan provided for the Paks Nuclear Power Plant expansion project, Mr. Orbán said that recently Hungary’s financial situation has greatly improved, the country has an agreement with Russia, and “it is a good agreement” which it does not want to put at risk; Hungary will rather strive to enact it.