As Hungary prepares for Putin visit, Szijjártó calls for “compromise” between EU and Russia

January 23, 2017

Photo: Iliya Pitalev – Sputnik

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov (pictured) in Moscow on Monday, where Szijjártó stressed the need for compromise between the European Union and Russia. The two men discussed economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to Budapest.

“As Hungary sees it, there is serious need from a European perspective for a compromise between the European Union and Russia,” Szijjártó said. “If the EU and Russia cannot reach a compromise on the terms of a pragmatic, close cooperation, then the Union will seriously fall behind in international economic and political competition.”

Szijjártó said relations between the two countries have suffered because of international sanctions placed on Russia for its conduct in Ukraine (sanctions that Hungary officially opposed), but that common economic cooperation programs including Russian investments in Hungarian technology, especially in agriculture and machinery, are thriving.

“After a very long time, we believe that international processes are contributing to the development of Hungarian-Russian relations,” he said.

The minister’s visit to Moscow comes ahead of Putin’s visit to Budapest on February 2, where the Russian leader and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán are expected to discuss the Paks II nuclear reactor expansion deal. Szijjártó said the Hungarian government is “making very serious preparations” for Putin’s visit.

Lavrov said the purpose of his meeting with Szijjártó was to make preparations for the success of the Orbán-Putin talks in Budapest, but that the continued efforts to make trade relations between the two countries more dynamic was also at the forefront of the foreign ministers’ discussions. He praised Hungary’s commitment to ensuring that Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation Rosatom could undertake the construction of two additional nuclear reactors at the Paks atomic energy plant, Hungary’s only nuclear facility. Orbán awarded the HUF 3 trillion (estimated EUR 10-12 billion) no-bid contract to Rosatom in 2014. The project, which has been the subject of a European Commission infringement proceeding, is being financed mostly with the proceeds of a loan from a Russian state-owned bank.