Viktor Orban, Vladimir Putin hold joint press conference

February 18, 2015


At a joint press conference held yesterday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s one-day visit to Budapest had “strengthened Russian-Hungarian economic relations.”  On the subject of the future supply of natural gas, Orban said he and Putin had agreed Hungary would be allowed to purchase gas not acquired to date and to pay for it at the time of delivery.

On the subject of the Ukraine Orban said there were “two hundred thousand reasons” why Hungary is “on the side of peace” (referring to the number of ethnic Hungarians living in Subcarpathia in western Ukraine).  He said peace meant not only the end of war but the construction of the future as well.  He said the agreement ensured the future supply of energy to Hungarian families and guaranteed the ability of Hungarian industry to operate in the future.

Orban hopes the relationship between the EU and Russia will resolve itself “as soon as possible” and that it was not rational to try try to exclude Russia from Europe because “regional security cannot be achieved in opposition to Russia.”   In response to questions from reporters, he said Hungary would look for opportunities to cooperate on projects similar to Russia’s stalled South Stream gas pipeline project, because in his opinion “assumptions” that Europe’s economy and energy security could exist without Russia were “mistaken.”  Orban said that it would be good for gas shipped from Russia to Turkey to travel through Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia to Hungary, “whence it could be delivered to Western Europe.”   He said that Putyin had assured him that the project would be built.

Putin said Hungary was one of Russia’s most important foreign trade partners, and that steps should be taken so that trade between the two countries could continue to grow.

Putin said he was grateful for the opportunity to visit Budapest on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of its liberation from the Nazis.  He said history had united the two countries on these pages and provided a good basis for improving relations.  Putin thanked his host for allowing him the opportunity to “respect and honor the heroic Soviet soldiers who died on Hungarian soil in 1956.”

Putin said Paks II nuclear plant expansion was a good business for Hungary because it was receiving a “very advantageous” loan for 30 years and the project would create some ten thousand jobs.

On the subject of future gas supplies, he emphasized that Russia was proud to be a reliable supplier of natural gas to Hungary and Europe.

On the subject of the Ukraine, the Russian president said he hoped the peace concluded in Minsk could be preserved.  He called “a big step” the fact that Ukraine agreed to reform its constitution.  In response to questions from journalists, he said the battles had not ceased in Debalcev, and this was “foreseeable and expected” because the Ukrainian army had been surrounded by separatists and was reluctant to lay down its arms.   Putin said he was confident that if Ukrainian soldiers lay down their arms, separatists would allow them to return to their families.  The Russian president said the most important thing was to save human lives, and the situation there was better than before the Minsk agreement.

He said Russia was aware that weapons had already been supplied to Ukraine from abroad.  “Delivering weapons to Ukraine will only increase the number of victims, and the results will still be the same as now.”   He said the majority of Ukrainian soldiers no longer wanted to participate in the “war between brothers” away from their homes, and that by contrast the separatists were “strongly prepared to defend their families.”  He blamed present hostilities in easter Ukraine on the fact that Kiev had thrice ordered a military deployment and the start of military operations.

Finally, Putin announced that Russia had not abandoned the construction of a southern gas pipeline similar to South Stream, which he said had been made impossible by EU judgements harmful to its own interests. He said Russia did not wish to punish anybody for the failure of South Stream, and was prepared to cooperate with Bulgaria, Greece and even Austria.  Russia wanted to build good, long-term partnerships.  He also stated his determination to cooperate with Turkey on the supply of natural gas to the rest of Europe.

It is not known at this time why the two leaders wore virtually identical outfits.

Just before the press conference they signed five “cooperation agreements” on Russian-Hungarian regional issues, health, higher education, the training of Hungarian experts in atomic energy technology and the opening of a Hungarian consulate in Kazany, the capital of Tatarstan.