Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that he hoped cooperation based on mutual respect would one day be restored between the European Union and Russia.
During a panel discussion at Russian Energy Week in Moscow, the foreign minister said mutual respect was once a baseline for long-term economic growth. European economic growth once had been based on a combination of cutting-edge Western technology and relatively cheap Eastern energy resources. By now, that model has fallen apart, he said. Meanwhile, Minister Szijjártó said nuclear energy was key to safe, cheap, balanced and sustainable energy. The upgrade of Hungary’s nuclear plant in Paks will increase capacity by 2,400 mega-watts and forestall the emission of 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, he said. Hungary, he said, regarded all “attacks” on nuclear energy as “unacceptable”, especially since European concerns “are always based on ideology and devoid of facts”. Besides Russia’s Rosatom, the project taps US, German and French technologies, he said. “This goes to show that the nuclear industry still allows for international cooperation based on rational thinking and respect,” he added. Szijjártó said Hungary would never condone sanctions on nuclear energy.
On another note, the minister said Hungary’s energy supplies are secure, with natural gas reserves at 62% of the annual demand, as Russian suppliers are committed to fulfilling their contractual obligations. Minister Szijjártó said it was “natural” that he had attended the Russian Energy Week forum and was holding talks on future cooperation in energy supplies, as fulfilling Hungary’s energy demand “remains physically impossible without Russian resources”. Ensuring energy supplies was not a political issue but that of resources and delivery routes, he said. “We can’t heat with press conferences and thunderous declarations or political statements.” Hungary also needs Russian technology and fuel for its nuclear industry, he said. So far, Hungary has received all-natural gas, crude oil and nuclear fuel contracted with Russian companies, he said. Crude deliveries are uninterrupted through Ukraine, Szijjártó said, expressing hope that the route wouldn’t be “ruined through financial, political or physical means”. While Hungary has already stored 62% of its annual demand in natural gas, the EU average of reserves is at 29%, he said.
At the same time, “attempts are ongoing to make Hungarian-Russian cooperation impossible,” Minister Szijjártó warned, insisting that one of those attempts was Bulgarian draft legislation that would drastically raise the transit fees on Russian gas and would cease deliveries should payments fall out. He called the Bulgarian legislation “unacceptable”. “For one European Union member state to endanger another’s gas supplies clearly runs afoul of European regulations and solidarity,” he said. Szijjártó said he was in talks with Bulgaria and Serbia on preventing those Bulgarian laws should pose difficulties for Hungary and Serbia. On another topic, the minister welcomed the start of construction work on Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant expansion. International cooperation remains broad in the nuclear industry, he said. A US company is working on the plant upgrade among others. Also, “in the first half of this year, the US bought a record 416 tonnes of Uranium from Russia,” he said. The Paks upgrade has gained new momentum as international cooperation started there, “so connecting the two new blocks to the electric grid at the beginning of the next decade remains a realistic goal,” he said. “Hungary maintains its sensible politics, where representing national interests and the security of energy supplies are the only priority,” he added. Earlier in the day, Szijjártó met Russian Deputy Prime Ministers Denis Manturov and Alexander Novák, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko and Oleg Matytsin, the minister of sports.