There is an urgent need for European-Russian reconciliation

Monday, January 23, 2017

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó hand over the Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit medal to Nikolai Fyodorov, the first deputy chairman of the Federal Assembly in Moscow. January 23 2017. MTI Photo: KKM / Arpad Szabo

Hungary takes the view that, from a European viewpoint, there is an urgent need for reconciliation between the EU and Russia, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó stated at a joint press conference after his meeting with Sergey Lavrov, the head of Russian diplomacy held on Monday in Moscow.

The main topics of the talks were, as Mr Lavrov pointed out, the preparation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest in February and the boosting of trade and economic relations, but the situation which has emerged in the wake of the inauguration of the new US President was also an important item on the agenda. „If the EU and Russia are unable to agree on the conditions of a pragmatic, close cooperation, the EU will severely fall behind in international economic and political competition”, the Hungarian Minister said.

„We take the view that, with the entry into office of the new US administration, multilateral approaches will be replaced by bilateral ones, and if the United States begins to build its relations in the world on a bilateral basis, if China, too, continues to gain in strength, and if the EU is unable to build pragmatic cooperation with Russia, the EU will fall behind without the hope of ever catching up, and the losses sustained in relations with Russia will be even more severe on the European side”, Mr Szijjártó stressed.

He added: it is Hungary’s historical experience that it is always Central-Europe that bears the brunt of any conflict between East and West, and therefore Hungary has an evident vested interest in cooperation between East and West. In his words, for the first time in a long while, the situation is such that the prevailing international processes, too, support Hungarian-Russian cooperation. „Hungary is clearly interested in the forging of pragmatic, close cooperation between the new US administration and Russia that is based on mutual trust within the shortest possible time”, he added.

In his words, if anyone speaks in this vein in the European Union, the mainstream still whispers behind his back that he is a Putinist or a Trumpist. „We would like to finally rid ourselves of these insultingly simplifying and harmful approaches, and to realise that it is in Europe’s best interest to normalise its relationship with Russia”, he said. Among the common interests of Europe and Russia, he mentioned the successful fight against terrorism, stability in the Middle-East, and action against the persecution of Christians.

Sergey Lavrov described the Moscow talks as practical, future-oriented, friendly and highly specific. He stressed that bilateral relations are based on equality, and respect for one another and one another’s interests.

The Hungarian partners confirmed their commitment to the continuation of Hungarian-Russian cooperation with respect to the enlargement of the Paks atomic power station with the involvement of Rosatom, he said. He told the press that the meeting primarily focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest in February, and the continued efforts which seek to restore dynamic trade relations between the two countries.

He pointed out that the bilateral intergovernmental economic cooperation committee plays a major role in this, whose co-chairs will render an account of the work completed at the upcoming summit. The next meeting of the committee will be held in Moscow this year.

He said that, in addition to the intergovernmental cooperation committee, they will soon also set up a regional cooperation body. Mr Szijjártó told the press that Russia will be the guest of honour of the Budapest travel show to be held in March, and that a public building will be named after Lev Tolstoy in Budapest shortly and a memorial, too, will be erected in tribute to the great 19th century Russian author.

He said that an agreement will be signed regarding the refurbishment of Russian Orthodox churches in Hungary on the occasion of the upcoming Putin visit. He highlighted that bilateral economic relations between the two countries have greatly suffered from the international sanctions, but the jointly organised economic cooperation programmes – regional cooperation, Hungarian technological projects in Russia, primarily in the field of agriculture, and machine industry cooperation – which are designed to offset the decline are going well.

He mentioned that a Hungarian supplementary feed plant was recently built in Tula Oblast which already caters for some 10 per cent of the needs of the Russian market. In Sverdlovsk County a plant was built in Hungarian-Russian cooperation which is capable of processing 400 tonnes of meat, and Eximbank is engaged in negotiations with respect to building a meat product factory in Moscow Oblast.

A Hungarian-built and operated spice mixing plant – which will supply Russian meat factories – will be completed in the same district in the first half of 2017. Another Hungarian company will build a refrigeration facility for the storage of 20 thousand tonnes of fruit and vegetables in Chelyabinsk. The Minister expressed hope that a cooperation agreement may come into being between the Metropolitan Water Works and its Chelyabinsk counterpart.

He said that both the Hungarian and Russian Governments support further activities on the part of the Hungarian oil industry company Mol in Russia. In his words, the Hungarian-Russian consortium, too, is „perhaps only a hair’s breadth away” from being awarded another Egyptian tender for the supply of railway carriages.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)


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