Feb 18, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán: Hungary’s Economic Relations with Russia ‘Rooted in a Sense of Responsibility’

That Hungary and Russia have managed to improve relations, particularly in the current international climate, is first and foremost “rooted in the sense of responsibility” and marks “a true miracle,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán yesterday following his annual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The prime minister calls it a “sense of responsibility” because Hungarian industry and economy depend in large measure on normal relations with our neighbor to the east. “Russia’s energy exports are so closely tied to the operating requirements of Hungarian industry that they are practically inseparable,” said the prime minister. Partnership with Russia “is one of the prerequisites for our economic success.”

Cooperation between Hungary and Russia in the field of energy goes back to the 1960s and continues today in the agreement on the expansion of Hungary’s nuclear power plant at Paks. The agreement, which “Hungary still considers the deal of the century,” has stirred some international debate, but in fact there’s nothing in this nuclear plant expansion project that we don’t find in similar projects in other EU countries. It’s a continuation of the energy cooperation that Hungary and Russia have had for decades.

Hungary’s not alone in wanting healthy economic cooperation with Russia. Cooperation is in the EU’s interest as well. “Economic growth in the European Union is slow, and accordingly the bloc cannot afford the luxury of not cooperating with everyone who can make its economy more dynamic,” the prime minister said. Russia remains the biggest energy supplier for many EU member countries, both east and west. Russia plays a role in the nuclear power sector of several EU member states and, despite the international limits on certain goods and services, Russia is one of the EU’s leading commercial partners.

Energy is not the only sector where Hungary and Russia cooperate. Hungary’s major pharmaceutical manufacturer, Richter, has become a significant player in Russia’s health care system and is planning further investments in the country. Hungary’s oil company, MOL, which has already developed projects in Russia worth some 100 million USD is going to pursue new drilling opportunities in Russia. Hungarian companies are planning to take part in the construction of three stadiums in Russia and, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, Hungarian companies are investing in agricultural projects in five Russian counties.

At yesterday’s meeting near Moscow, both sides agreed that economic cooperation between the two countries has taken positive steps forward in every area except trade. Though the trade relationship depends on international factors beyond our control, Hungary, along with many in Europe, would be keen to see improving economic relations with Russia.