Hungary engaged in pragmatic cooperation with Russia, says foreign minister
Budapest, May 3 (MTI) – Hungary is engaged in pragmatic and straightforward cooperation with Russia, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign affairs and trade minister, said on Wednesday. The reason is that 85 percent of the country’s gas imports come from Russia, he said.
Remarks about close cooperation between the two countries are aimed at whipping up a political scandal, the minister told a news conference ahead of a meeting of the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists.
Szijjártó said Hungarian industry would not function without the agreement signed at the end of 2015 on gas purchases.
He insisted that western European countries maintain far closer relations with Russia than Hungary does, adding that at last year’s St Petersburg economic forum “more of them spoke German than Russian”.
Szijjártó said it was “interesting” that the criticism levelled at Hungary during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest had been absent when it came to other visits, such as the German chancellor’s visit to Moscow.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline project with Gazprom is not being built by Hungary but by “German, French, Italian and perhaps Austrian companies”, he said. Yet criticism is mute on this score, he added.
Szijjártó said Hungary’s place is in Europe, the European Union and NATO, but no one disputes that pragmatic, balanced and calm cooperation must be maintained with Russia. There is no question of anything going beyond this, he added.
He said Russia did not pose a direct security threat to Hungary, and he insisted that Moscow had no interest in acting with aggression against a NATO member state. “The Poles and the Baltic countries think differently, however,” he added.
Commenting on a remark by Emmanuel Macron, a candidate in the upcoming second round of France’s election, comparing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with Putin and Marine Le Pen, Szijjártó said it was unworthy and disrespectful to “spread lies” about the leader of a third country during an election campaign. Hungary is a democracy and “the current Hungarian PM has unmistakable merits in having overthrown the dictatorship”.