He said that it is in Hungary’s national interest for there to be better cooperation between the two halves of Europe, and for Hungarian-Russian relations within this to be as good as possible. He said that the reason for this is that whenever there have been tensions between the eastern and western halves of Europe, the Hungarians have always being adversely affected. When there has been cooperation, however, “we have always benefited”.
In his opinion, over the past few years Hungary and Russia have become steady partners for each other.
Regarding cooperation in the energy sector, the Prime Minister said that “after our agreement on gas supplies for 2019, we have also come to an agreement on supplies for 2020”.
In addition to this, Mr. Orbán said, Hungary is also competing for the opportunity of being a transit country for a future gas pipeline entering Europe from the South, from Turkey. This, he said, would present the Hungarian economy with a great opportunity, and he confirmed that he had asked Vladimir Putin to seriously consider the possibility of the gas pipeline’s “entry into Hungary”.
He reported that The Paks Nuclear Power Plant expansion project is making good progress, and “we have been carrying out the necessary adjustments in a timely manner”.
Replying to a journalist’s question about the Paks project, the Prime Minister said that 35 to 40 per cent of Hungary’s electricity is generated in Paks, and the long-term plan is that – in addition to solar power – nuclear energy will be a determining factor in the country’s future.
This project is attracting interest, he continued, because as a member of the EU and NATO “we are doing this in cooperation with the Russians”. In his opinion this project is therefore a bold one – not only from an energy point of view, but also in terms of the prospects for East-West cooperation.
He observed that difficulties and technical issues do arise, mentioning the EU’s bureaucratic practice, which Russia had not previously encountered. Every effort is being made to keep to the relevant deadlines, he said, but he believes that this is secondary when compared with the goal of bringing this large-scale initiative to a successful conclusion. He said that he sees both Hungary and Russia as being committed to this.
He stated that “We will complete this, and it will be a shared success, which will not only benefit Russian-Hungarian relations, but will also modernise the system of energy policy relations between Russia and Europe.”
In his view, the importance of the matter points far beyond Hungary, and “hence the interest, hence the many opponents, and hence the many supporters”.
Regarding economic and financial relations, The Prime Minister said that the two countries are making good progress in agriculture, the energy sector and the pharmaceutical industry. He drew attention to the fact that OTP Bank provides jobs for five thousand people in Russia, and he also asked the Russian president at the same time to participate in expanding financial cooperation. In this context he said that, as the third largest shareholder in the International Investment Bank, Hungary is ready for that financial institution’s centre to be relocated to Budapest.
Mr. Orbán also urged the launch of a direct air route between Budapest and Kazan, as well as the mutual recognition of degrees, and an increase in the number of student scholarships.
The Prime Minister added that they are also seeking to develop cooperation in oncology, and to establish an educational and research institute together with Russia.
He further highlighted that Hungary and Russia are making joint efforts to help Christians who are persecuted around the world. “We both believe that in the modern world it is important to preserve and strengthen Christian culture”, Mr. Orbán said.