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Feb 03, 2017

PM Orbán on Russia and EU sanctions: We ‘cannot treat non-economic problems with economic measures’

“It is hard to imagine a successful Hungary,” the prime minister said, “without establishing open, vigorous and fruitful economic and trade relations with one of the biggest players in the global economy”

Emerging from their meeting yesterday in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a clear message that economic relations between the two countries are a top priority and, despite the EU sanctions which have been detrimental and should be lifted, the two countries remain determined to further develop those economic ties, emphasizing new agreements on Russian gas to Hungary, the expansion of the Paks II nuclear power plant and Hungarian investment in the Russian agricultural sector.

Prime Minister Orbán and President Putin spoke plainly about sanctions. “Non-economic problems cannot be treated with economic measures,” the prime minister said, noting that a certain anti-Russian sentiment has become fashionable in western Europe. Despite this difficult international environment, the two countries have endeavored to improve economic ties. “It is hard to imagine a successful Hungary,” Prime Minister Orbán said, “without establishing open, vigorous and fruitful economic and trade relations with one of the biggest players in the global economy.”

President Putin noted that trade numbers and investment volume have nearly halved during the last two years. The Hungarian economy has suffered a loss of 6.5 billion USD as a result of the sanctions against Russia. That’s why, the prime minister assured the Russian president, it is in Hungary’s best interest that the sanctions be lifted.

The energy sector, of course, figured prominently in their meeting. They signed agreements that guarantee Russian gas supplies to Hungary until 2021 and announced that talks will now begin on the post-2021 gas supply agreements. President Putin assured the prime minister that, particularly concerning gas supplies, Russia will guarantee the energy security of Hungary. The two noted that Hungary has the necessary infrastructure to possibly connect to the Nord Stream. This would further diversify Hungary’s gas sources, which is a priority for the government and something that Russia does not oppose.

Regarding nuclear cooperation and the expansion of the Paks II nuclear plant, the prime minister and president agree that most of the obstacles have been overcome. Preparations begin this year and construction work should begin in 2018. The Russian investment will reach 12 billion euro and create 10 thousand new jobs, the Russian president said.

On the agricultural front, the two leaders signed a framework agreement to promote Hungarian food industry investments in Russia and increase industrial production in Russia. President Putin also thanked Prime Minister Orbán for the Hungarian government’s financial support to the reconstruction of Orthodox churches in Hungary.

As Prime Minister Orbán said, it’s difficult to imagine a successful Hungarian economy without robust economic and trade relations with Russia. The economy, he noted, “will be in a good spot once the world finds its way back to appreciating cooperation.”