Hungary has a vested interest in the improvement of cooperation between the West and Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated after he had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Budapest.

At a joint press conference, Mr Orbán said if relations between the Eastern and Western halves of Europe as well as between NATO and Russia are good, Hungary, too, benefits from that.

DownloadPhoto: Benko Vivien Cher/Press Office of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister also highlighted that the practice that a high-level Hungarian-Russian meeting is held every year in order to review the status of bilateral relations goes back many long years. Since these meetings first started, there have been more as well as less successful years; there were times when they only made “snail’s progress”, while at other times the two countries “made great strides,” he said, stressing that the previous year falls into the latter category.

Regarding economic cooperation, he pointed out that since the introduction of sanctions against Russia, 2018 was the first year when the volume of trade between Hungary and Russia increased again, exceeding USD 6 billion.

It is Hungary’s intention to seek to come to agreements on projects and capital investments in Russia, and to ensure that it has exportable products for the Russian market, he said, observing that Hungary already has meat industry, veterinary hygiene, medical and pharmaceutical investments in Russia.

Mr Orbán also spoke about Hungarian-Russian political cooperation. He said not a single country is able to change its geographical position. Every country is where the Almighty created it, and it is a fact that Hungary lives its life in the Moscow-Berlin-Istanbul triangle. Therefore, the goal of Hungarian politics is to ensure that every great power has a vested interest in its success; those in particular which have a determining influence on its life from a regional point of view.

Hungarian-Russian cooperation, too, fits into this political line because while Hungary is naturally a member of NATO and the EU, and will stay a member, this does not rule out political cooperation with Russia on certain issues, he said.

DownloadPhoto: Benko Vivien Cher/Press Office of the Prime Minister

He mentioned among the most important areas of such cooperation the protection of Christian communities around the world as well as migration as, he said, both countries are familiar with the threats inherent in it. Regarding the latter, he observed that also at present there are some 96,000 migrants on the Balkans route, between Turkey and Hungary, who are moving North, and this fills Hungary with concern and compels it to protect its borders.

The Prime Minister added that there is political cooperation between Hungary and Russia also regarding the stability of the Middle East. If the Middle East is destabilised, migrants will come from that region to Europe in increasing numbers, and therefore Hungary has a vested interest in the establishment of military and political stability in the Middle East, and in Syria within the shortest possible time, he said.

He mentioned that cooperation also extends to Kurds living in Iraq because Hungary supports the Kurdish regional government in Erbil with military training, military personnel and money.

In answer to a question concerning the fact that Hungary vetoed a joint statement of NATO ambassadors concerning Ukraine, Mr Orbán said the debate is about what should be done about the situation that the Hungarian minority in Ukraine is living in discrimination and intimidation. The Hungarian party’s proposal was that if such a document is to be adopted, the minimum they should seek to achieve is that the Ukrainians agree to accept the motions of the Venice Commission, he said, stating that if this is not included in the document, Hungary is unable to sign it as that would amount to surrendering the European rights that Hungarians in Transcarpathia are entitled to.

At the same time, he expressed hope that the situation of Hungarians in Transcarpathia will improve under the new Ukrainian leadership with which they are seeking to engage in meaningful talks within the shortest possible time.

He also underlined that when Hungary states its position related to Ukraine, it does not do so because of Russia or with regard to Russia, but based on Hungarian national interests.

The Prime Minister stated in answer to a question about TurkStream that Hungary would like to be sovereign not only in its energy procurement, but equally as regards transit countries. Therefore, if gas can only come to Hungary from Russia via Ukraine, that is bad for its sovereignty. Consequently, TurkStream is “a preference, the sooner we can join it the better,” he said.

In his view, today Hungary is a sovereign country also from an energy supply point of view, “something one could only dream about when I was young, which was during the communist times”.

In defence of Christians in the Middle East, Mr Orbán said in answer to a question that it is the duty of the Hungarian people to help Christian communities in trouble also outside the territory of their country; this is a very old tradition. In cooperation with Russia, Hungary is restoring church buildings, and is building factories which could contribute to the improved food supply of the locals. Hungary is also building schools and hospitals and is reconstructing entire villages where the people who fled their homes can return to, he said.

Before the press conference, the Hungarian and Russian parties signed 8 agreements in the presence of Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin. These included a complex programme about Hungarian-Russian interregional cooperation, a social security agreement, declarations of intent on cooperation in the fields of oncology, sports and physical education, and railway transport, a reinsurance agreement between Eximbank and the Russian export insurance agency Exiar, a cooperation agreement between Samara Oblast and Győr-Moson-Sopron County, and a cooperation agreement between Mol, Lukoil and Transneft about the future of oil supplies.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)