Budapest, February 16 (MTI) – Russian gas supplies to Hungary and cooperation on upgrading the Paks nuclear plant will be on the agenda of talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban when Vladimir Putin pays a short working visit to Budapest on Tuesday.
In what will be Putin’s first bilateral visit to a European Union country since June last year, the soon-to-expire Russia-Hungary gas agreement will be either extended or replaced by a new one, an advisor to the Russian president said, briefing journalists in Moscow on Monday.
During talks on the Russian-Hungarian gas agreement, Putin and Prime Minister Viktor Orban will discuss “the situation that has developed as a result of withdrawal from the South Stream pipeline project due to the European Union’s position,” Yuri Ushakov said.
Moscow abandoned South Stream and will instead construct a pipeline through Turkey, he said, adding that Hungary was an important market for Russian crude oil and natural gas.
Putin’s visit to Budapest could be crucial from the point of view of maintaining secure energy supplies to Hungary, Peter Szijjarto, minister of foreign affairs and trade, told MTI earlier. Responding to criticism that Hungary has decided to host the Russian leader, Szijjarto said that Russia would remain a key player in ensuring central Europe’s energy supply so it is “inconceivable for us not to consult with it regularly.”
For the time being, Russia and Turkey are negotiating about gas supplies but have not signed a binding agreement, Szijjarto said.
Orban has told parliamentary group leaders that the gas agreement with Russia should not be based on a long-term contract and should incorporate a degree of flexibility.
The upgrade of Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant and the implementation of the related bilateral agreement on Paks will also be discussed, Ushakov said. He noted that Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of leading Russian state nuclear energy firm Rosatom, will also be in Hungary as member of Putin’s delegation.
In his recent interview to MTI, Szijjarto said the Paks upgrade “is on the right track, the related contracts have been concluded.” He added that the Russian energy minister had reassured him in Moscow last December that there was no cause for concern, as Rosatom would fulfil its obligations.
The conflict in Ukraine will obviously be raised during Putin’s talks, Szijjarto said earlier. “Hungary’s position is unambiguous: the conflict should be settled peacefully through negotiations.” Hungary has a vested interest in peace for several reasons; Ukraine is a neighbouring country, it has a 150,000-strong ethnic Hungarian minority and forms part of the route of Russian gas to Hungary, he noted.
A package of five pacts have also been prepared to coincide with the visit, including an agreement on training Hungarian nuclear experts in Russia and Hungary’s opening a consulate-general in Kazan, the seat of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ushakov said. The others include agreements on health care and higher education as well as regional cooperation, he said.
Putin’s visit will coincide with the 70th anniversary of Budapest’s liberation from fascist rule, he noted.
The Russian president will start his visit by laying a wreath at Heroes’ Square. He will later attend an inauguration ceremony of refurbished Soviet military graves in the Fiumei Street Cemetery.
Putin will then hold private talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and attend a working lunch before signing the bilateral agreements. The president will conclude his visit by meeting his counterpart Janos Ader, said Ushakov.