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Oct 30, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán on Hungary-Russia: If relations between East and West are bad, Hungary loses

But if relations are good, Hungary wins.

In a joint press conference following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán talked about Hungarian-Russian trade, the importance of an improved NATO-Russia relationship, stability in the Middle East, and the two countries’ commitment to protecting Christians around the world.

“For several years now, we have had the practice of holding an annual Russian-Hungarian meeting at the highest level,” Prime Minister Orbán stated, as he began his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin following their meeting, which resulted in the signing of eight agreements in multiple policy areas.

“Looking back,” PM Orbán said, “I have to say that these [annual meetings have seen] successful and sometimes less successful years. This last year belongs to the former category.” In fact, 2018 was the first year since the introduction of economic sanctions against Russia that Hungarian-Russian economic activity grew. Citing statistical data, PM Orbán said that trade between the two countries has – once again – surpassed 6 billion dollars, closing in on six and a half.

According to the prime minister, this trade volume is heavily in favor of Russia because of Hungary’s purchases of gas and oil. “This is an imbalanced situation, but we’re working to bring more balance,” PM Orbán said, adding that Hungary is achieving this first by expanding investments in Russia and, secondly, by exporting products that are accepted on the Russian market.

Looking at the bigger, political picture, Prime Minister Orbán asserted that, based on Hungary’s experience, if relations between Western and Eastern Europe are bad, if tensions exist, then Hungary always loses. If relations are good, then Hungary wins.

“Improving the NATO-Russia relationship is,” the PM continued, “one area where we have political cooperation with Russia,” because a smooth relationship between eastern and western Europe has always been in Hungary’s interest.

Detailing other areas of political cooperation, PM Orbán said that Hungary and Russia have a shared interest in stopping migration and achieving stability in the Middle East.

The Middle East, however, plays an important role in another policy area where cooperation between the two countries is key: the protection of persecuted Christians around the globe. Answering a question on the topic, Vladimir Putin said that while the Middle East is the “cradle of Christianity,” Christians today are in trouble – they are being persecuted, murdered, raped, and kidnapped.

This is why, as PM Orbán said, the two would be meeting with Christian religious leaders from the Middle East following the press conference. “This is also part of our policy that we call taking help to where it’s needed instead of bringing the trouble over here,” the Hungarian prime minister said.

When asked why Hungary vetoed NATO’s joint statement on Ukraine earlier today, Prime Minister Orbán said that “veto” is a very harsh word and that Hungary simply recommended further consideration.

"The Hungarian side recommended that if we are to accept such a [NATO] document, then we should at least achieve a result where Ukraine is bound to accepting and committing itself to the recommendations of the Venice Commission,” the PM said, adding that currently in Ukraine, the members of the Hungarian community are suffering discrimination under the law.