President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
Today we had very substantive and constructive talks as part of the Prime Minister’s working visit. We discussed topical issues on the bilateral and international agendas and outlined long-term cooperation plans.
I would like to stress that Hungary is Russia’s important and reliable partner in Europe. We are interested in further expanding Russian-Hungarian relations in all areas.
This primarily concerns developing mutually beneficial trade and economic links. Last year, bilateral trade increased by 25 percent to exceed $5 billion.
Over January to July of this year, trade indicators continued to grow, also at a high rate of 30 percent. The total amount of mutual capital investment reached $1 billion.
We are conducting large investment projects, expanding cooperation in industrial production, the financial sector and high technology.
I would like to note that Russian companies have upgraded trains for the Budapest Metro and, in cooperation with Hungarian companies, plan to supply railway cars to third markets. I am talking about quite significant contracts.
At the same time, a wide range of medical products are produced in Russia under a Hungarian brand, including innovative medicines.
Established with Hungarian capital, OTP Bank is a major financial and lending institution in Russia. It has more than 200 offices that serve almost four million customers.
Energy is an important area of bilateral cooperation. Russia provides Hungary with over 75 percent of its oil and 60 percent of its gas. Russian natural gas goes to Europe through Hungary. Underground storage tanks on Hungarian territory make it possible to reliably supply European customers without fail even during peak demand.
Opportunities for including our Hungarian partners in new routes of Russian gas transit to Europe are being considered. I do not rule out that after the Turkish Stream is built, one of the land branches of this gas main could pass through Hungary.
Hungarian corporations take part in the exploration of hydrocarbon resources on Russian territory. For instance, MOL – we talked about this with the Prime Minister – is developing an oil field in Orenburg Region, producing up to 500,000 tonnes of oil a year.
There are good opportunities for Russian-Hungarian cooperation in the nuclear power industry. Rosatom will soon start building two new units at the Paks nuclear power plant.
Incidentally, this power plant generates 40 percent of Hungary’s electricity. This is a serious figure. Building additional capacity will double the electricity output and meet the requirements of the Hungarian economy for years to come.
We maintain strong ties between local regions. At our initiative with Mr Orban, an intergovernmental commission on regional cooperation is being established. It will hold its first meeting before the end of the year.
We continue developing our humanitarian relations. In September, we endorsed a bilateral programme of cooperation in culture for 2018–2020. We are working on an intergovernmental agreement on the reciprocal recognition of education, qualifications and scientific degrees.
When discussing international issues we spoke about Russian-EU cooperation. Of course, we exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine.
We told Mr Orban about the latest developments in the Syrian settlement, emphasizing the importance of Syria’s socio-economic recovery.
In general, the talks were held in a businesslike and constructive atmosphere and were very useful. I would like to thank the Prime Minister and all of our Hungarian colleagues for our work today.
Thank you for your attention.
Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban (retranslated): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Mr President.
This is our first official meeting since the election in Russia, so I personally, and on behalf of Hungary, would like to convey our best wishes to the President of the Russian Federation. We wish him success in his work for the benefit of Russia and the Russian people.
In recent years, we have become reliable partners for each other. I would like to thank Mr President for making this point as well.
I can tell you that all of the agreements that we have concluded in recent years have been implemented.
Reliability is a very important currency in modern world politics, therefore we highly appreciate our relations with Russia. And although we belong to different military alliances, we are interested in maximising our joint success.
Hungary has multiple interests. We have learned lessons from history over the past 100 years. When there was tension between Western and Eastern Europe, things were always bad for the Hungarians. And when the West and the East cooperated, things were good for Hungary. So Hungary is interested in the best possible cooperation between these two parts of the world.
Mr President mentioned the main issues we discussed during today's talks, but I would like to add that there is one peculiar area of our cooperation as both our countries belong to a Christian culture.
We attach great importance to preserving and strengthening the Christian culture in the modern world, and to that end, we do what we can; we try to support Christians who are in danger.
On behalf of Hungary, I can say that Hungarians have always appreciated the cultural achievements of other nations. We are certainly proud of our own achievements, but Russia enjoys enormous prestige in our country in that regard.
That is why I am thankful to Mr President for bolstering our contacts in the area of cultural ties. The fact that an operetta was shown on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre a few days ago and that audiences could see the work of Imre Kalman is an honour for Hungary, for which we are very grateful to you.
As for economic cooperation in agriculture, energy, and pharmacology – things are going well. We would like to extend it to other areas, to establish cooperation in cancer research – to conduct joint research and training. There are wonderful opportunities opening up for this.
As for energy issues, we have reached an agreement on gas supplies for 2020 as well. As Mr President said, it is no secret that Hungary wants the gas pipeline that is going to be built from the south towards Hungary to further cross the country. That would open excellent opportunities for Hungary. I asked Mr President to seriously consider this possibility. Investment into Paks is doing well – we made the necessary adjustments when we had to.
I consider financial cooperation very important. Mr President has already mentioned OTP bank. I would like to add that the Hungarian bank employs 5,000 people in Russia.
We will take one more step because I have asked Mr President to expand our financial cooperation.
Being the third largest shareholder in the International Investment Bank, Hungary is ready to house the headquarters, to move it to Budapest. I ask Mr President to convey to the bank management that they should consider this.
I would like to inform the Hungarians that I suggested to Mr President that we launch a new flight between Budapest and Kazan.
Mutual recognition of diplomas of academic degrees is an important issue. This means that we are not only establishing cooperation for the moment, but investing in the younger generation and planning to maintain long-term, respectful and reliable cooperation between our countries, which will benefit Hungary and eventually Europe.
Thank you for your attention.
Question: Good afternoon. I would like to ask President Putin: what do you think about the immigration crisis in Europe? Do you think the number of immigrants will remain the same or continue to grow? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You know, it is not easy for me to comment on issues that do not affect us directly.
We have our own issues, our own problems concerning foreigners in the Russian Federation. To a certain extent, this issue is no easier for us than for Europe, but we have no borders with the immigrants’ countries of origin. But our problems have their own challenges even though, as a rule, these are people from former Soviet republics – meaning that often, they can speak Russian, understand the basics of our culture and more easily adapt to Russia. But this is still not a simple process and there are some issues, including in the labor market.
Regarding Europe, the situation is more complicated in this respect, I think. People with completely different cultural traditions are coming to the European countries. Adaptation is a very difficult process. These are problems that must be solved within the European Union, not in Russia.
Based on the current circumstances, the inflow of immigrants is not likely to decrease. First, there were immigrants from Syria, Iraq and other Middle East countries. Now there are also newcomers from ‘black’ Africa. This number is constantly growing, the situation changes only geographically and then the inflow increases again.
Overall, it is clear that immigration to Europe is potentially massive, and it is all about politics. If immigration is encouraged with high benefits and other support, why would the inflow stop? I do not quite understand that. But, again, our European colleagues need to decide themselves what is better for Europe and its development.
Question: Mr Orban, a question for you. The Paks nuclear power plant – a major bilateral project – has been mentioned here, with 2020 as the completion date. Given the pressure from the EU, the sanctions, will this deadline be moved?
Mr President, I cannot help mentioning today's Il-20 tragedy. Will this complicate our relations with Israel? One cannot help recalling the recent incident with Turkey. What kind of response measures can be expected from Russia? Thank you.
Viktor Orban: There is a lot of talk about the Paks investment project, and this is understandable, although for us, Hungarians, it is mostly important insofar as even now, Paks produces 35–40 percent of the electricity.
Our long-term plans rely on nuclear energy, which should cover our country’s needs in the long run, along with solar energy. However, the recent interest in it is warranted by something else – by the fact that we are building it with Russia.
When we signed this agreement, Hungary had been a member of the European Union for many years. And we were talking about a project we were going to start from scratch, a project that an EU member – Hungary – intended to develop with Russia.
Nobody has done this before. Older projects like the first Paks units were built much earlier, and they are still operational. But starting a whole new project when we are NATO members and Russia is not, when we are EU members and Russia is not, is different. However, we have good technological cooperation because we developed the first units together, and we say that we can do this with Russia.
That was a bold decision, I should say, not only from the energy perspective, but also in terms of cooperation between East and West.
The project certainly raises a variety of technical issues – licenses, permits, regulations, and EU bureaucratic practices, that is, there are a variety of difficulties. There will be more. We will try to keep to the schedule, but this is secondary.
I believe that this project, which is a flagship of cooperation between East and West, must be carried out to the end. We will do it. This will be our common success and will not only benefit Hungarian-Russian relations, but will also modernise the energy infrastructure of the European Union. This is why there is so much interest, and this is why there are so many opponents and so many supporters.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to join the Prime Minister in this respect. This is really a natural choice because part of this power plant was built with Russian technology and it is operational. Specialists understand it, and for them it is natural to continue cooperating with us.
True, I would like to note that this is not the only example of cooperation with an EU country in nuclear energy. We are carrying out a similar project with Finland. Therefore, we continue to cooperate with the EU although competition there is high.
Now I would like to say a few words about the tragedy you mentioned. When people die, especially in such unfortunate circumstances, it is always a tragedy, a tragedy for all of us, for the nation and for the families of our people who lost their lives.
First of all, I would like to express condolences to the families of the dead.
As for your comparison with the downing of our plane by a Turkish fighter, this was a different situation. The Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft.
In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft. It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me.
As for reciprocal action, this will be primarily aimed at ensuring additional security for our military and our facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These steps will be seen by everyone.