President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Prime Minister,
Our talks with the Prime Minister of Hungary have just concluded. This was my sixth meeting with my colleague in the last three years. We have agreed that regular bilateral contacts will continue after the election of the new Russian president. Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, first deputy prime minister in the Russian Government, was in Budapest just recently on a working visit and prepared today’s meeting, which has ended with positive results. As you know, Dmitry Anatolyevich is one of the candidates in the Russian presidential election. There is every reason to hope that our joint work and accomplishments today and over these last years are set to continue.
The intergovernmental agreement we have signed today opens up the opportunity for Hungary to join in the project to lay the new Southern Stream mainline gas pipeline and take part in building a related large underground gas reservoir. Stable cooperation in the oil and gas sector is Russia and Hungary’s common contribution to ensuring Europe’s energy security.
On the bilateral agenda we have the second round of Russian-Hungarian intergovernmental consultations at prime-ministerial level. These consultations began in December 2007 and are proving to be an effective cooperation instrument. As for the success of our business ties, our bilateral trade results are the most eloquent evidence. Trade between our two countries was close to $9 billion and Hungarian exports to Russia have increased 8-fold since 2000 and come to almost $3 billion. It is the positive changes in the political climate between our countries that has made this rapid growth possible. Our concerted and common efforts have borne fruit and made it possible for us to remove the psychological barriers in the way of developing modern forms of cooperation, including reciprocal investment.
A process of reciprocal investment is now underway and production cooperation is also going ahead. Big projects in the high-technology sectors are being carried out. We are developing oil fields in Western Siberia, developing the European air transport market, working together in the nanotechnology sector and more.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr Ferenc Gyurcsany for a fruitful, constructive and very frank dialogue today. I am sure that today’s meeting will contribute to the further development of cooperation between our two countries and will help to enrich the spectrum of our bilateral relations for the good of our peoples, our countries and the whole of Europe. Thank you.
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany (as translated): Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
Russian-Hungarian relations underwent a great change after 2002. Hungary realised that it had no alternative to cooperation with Russia. After 2002, our economic, business and cultural ties reached levels far higher than anything we had seen over the previous 15 years. During this time, Hungary joined the European Union and we represent not only our own country but also the European Union. Relations between Russia and the European Union are based on the principle of partnership. Of course, we have debates and disagreements. Our positions differ on a whole number of issues, but we can discuss these matters openly with each other, debate with each other, and at the same time continue our economic and cultural cooperation.
I am firmly convinced that the European Union needs cooperation and partnership with Russia. I must stress that in my view, this cooperation and partnership should not be limited to the energy sector. The world is too complex, unpredictable and unstable today for relations between such important players in world politics as the European Union, Russia and the United States not to be based on the principles of mutual understanding and partnership. This is a luxury we cannot afford. Over these last few years, not only have relations between our two countries entered a new era, but in some areas we have already moved through certain stages and periods. More than 13 years after President Yeltsin spoke his famous words at the start of the 1990s, President Putin, during his visit to Budapest two years ago, clearly stated modern Russia’s attitude towards the recent decades of our history and its position regarding the events of 1956. The Hungarian public was happy to hear these words and is grateful to him for this.
We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it and I see that we are indeed showing that we have learned our lessons.
I also want to say that two years ago, Russia returned to Hungary and the Hungarian people the collection of antique books from the Saropatak Church Library, and President Putin played a big part in this. I am not sure that everyone realizes how important a gesture this was for Hungary. I think that this gesture marked the end of what was a time of inner turmoil between our two peoples and healed the wounds.
Now, with just a couple of days to go before Russia holds its presidential election, I would like to thank President Putin for his personal contribution and the part he has played in improving the relations between our countries. We will return the debt. The President has done everything he said he would, and as for what he has not promised and has not done, we will probably not ask it of him – such is the way the world goes.
Concerning the agreement we have just signed, I am certain that it is in the interests of Hungary, Russia, and Europe. There has been a lot of debate on this subject and a lot of differing opinions. We have had much debate among ourselves and have had to devote much time to discussions, but we have settled this issue. I found First Deputy Prime Minister Medvedev, who visited Budapest just a few days ago, to be a firm but constructive partner. I am grateful to him for his cooperation and I am sure that the relations between our two countries will continue to develop.
I hope you will not take offence if I add one last remark: two pipelines are much better than one, but I must admit that I would be happy if we could add another, for three is even better than two. We still have hope. Thank you, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Question: The Prime Minister spoke just now of three pipelines. There are two on the agenda, but essentially the agreements concern one pipeline. What is your view of the Nabucco pipeline project, and do you think it would be viable in terms of resources?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his kind words in my address and in Russia’s address.
As for the number of pipelines, the Prime Minister said that Hungary sees no alternative to cooperation with Russia. We have learned to understand each other better over these last years. We know that an alternative always exists, but it is not as good as cooperation with Russia. This is also true for the pipeline issue. You can build two or three or even five pipelines, but the whole question is what resources will be pumped through these pipelines and where they will come from. I have no right to answer for other projects and will not do so. But I am sure that the agreements that we discussed with the Prime Minister and that were signed today will be carried out. Russia, in any case, has absolutely no doubts in this regard. We are pleased to see that our Hungarian friends have taken such a pragmatic line. Thank you.