Remarks and answer to media question by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a joint press conference following talks with State Secretary for External Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs of Hungary Peter Szijjarto Moscow, October 3, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have discussed in detail our bilateral relations, regional, European and international problems with due account and in line with the agreements reached at the meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Kremlin on September 18. We identified concrete measures towards effective and expeditious fulfilment of these agreements.
We noted the positive trends in trade which has already increased by 30 per cent during the early months of this year to $4 billion.
We reviewed the progress made in the implementation of major projects, including the building by the Rosatom State Corporation of two new units at the Paks nuclear power plant which is, without exaggeration, a strategic facility, in part due to its high-tech character. We are convinced that the project will strengthen Hungary’s energy security, give a push to the creation of jobs and in general to the development of the national economy.
We note the successful progress of other joint initiatives, including the modernisation by Russian specialists of the Budapest metro carriages, and our joint work in the markets of other countries. Most recently a contract was signed on the joint delivery by our companies of 1,300 passenger railway carriages to Egypt.
All these matters, as well as other plans for the future will be thoroughly discussed at the next meeting of the Russian-Hungarian Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission co-chaired by the Hungarian Minister for External Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto and the Russian Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova. The meeting will take place in Budapest on October 22.
We have also agreed to put forward the inauguration meeting of the new bilateral Intergovernmental Commission on Regional Cooperation between Russian and Hungarian regions.
Our humanitarian links are expanding. Budapest Days were held last week in Moscow and St Petersburg. A Cooperation Programme has been adopted and is being implemented between the Culture Ministry of the Russian Federation and the Hungarian Ministry of Social Resources for 2018-20120.
Hungarian higher education institutions have enrolled 200 Russian students for temporary study periods. Hungarian students in turn study at Russian universities. We are pleased to note Hungarians’ interest in the study of the Russian language.
On international topics we paid attention to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. In addition to the tasks facing the international community in the settlement of these crises, we spoke about how the Russian Federation is trying to help overcome the Syrian conflict, among others.
Russia and Hungry are concerned about the position of Christians who have been seriously affected by the developments in this troubled region. We have agreed to continue holding special events in the framework of the OSCE, the UN Human Rights Council as well as other international bodies, devoted to the protection of Christians in the Middle East.
We discussed Ukraine. Hungary and Russia, like all the other countries, are for full compliance with the Minsk Agreements. At the same time we expressed our shared concern about Kiev’s policy of “Ukrainianisation” of education, infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities, especially the language rights, contrary to the commitments Ukraine has undertaken under the corresponding international conventions.
On the whole we are satisfied with the results of our talks which we will continue during our working lunch.
Question: How do you see the outlook for cooperation between the EU and Russia considering that not everyone wants to see Russian pipelines being built in Europe?
Sergey Lavrov: We have very intensive energy cooperation and energy dialogue with the EU. At one period of time energy dialogue was one of the 20 sectoral dialogues, which highlights the scope of relations that existed between Russia and the EU in the strategic partnership framework. Unfortunately, today such full-fledged dialogues have been frozen, including the energy dialogue which covers oil, gas, electricity, nuclear power and renewable energy. However, talks, above all on hydrocarbons and especially gas, have never stopped, including Nord Stream 2, Turkish Stream, and South Stream from which, unfortunately, the European Commission has barred Bulgaria and other interested countries. We discussed, of course, Russian gas transit via Ukraine.
Now that Ukraine has proved to be an unreliable transiter and when the Ukrainian gas transport system is in an alarming state our gas company Gazprom together with partners from the European countries, has built the first strip of Nord Stream and the building of Nord Stream-2 is starting. All the approvals for that have been obtained. There is a possibility that Turkish Stream may become not just a Russia-Turkey project, but a project involving interested EU countries, provided guarantees are offered that there will be no repetition of what happened to South Stream.
You are absolutely right, the projects involving the building of Russian pipelines to deliver Russian gas to European consumers have their opponents. The main opponent is not in Europe but across the ocean. We all know this, as the US says publicly that Nord Stream-2 should not be built because it would “aggravate” an alleged European dependence on the Russian Federation. Dependence is always mutual. How can we risk our supplies to the consumers who account for a huge part of our hydrocarbon export? Russia, by all its experience and its history of interaction with the EU in this sphere, has never given grounds for accusations of being an unreliable supplier. The crises that have occurred have been caused first and foremost by the behaviour of transit countries.
To end my answer to your question, I would like to say that we expect the European countries to make their decisions on whether or not to take part in this or that project by comparing the competitive advantages of the suppliers. Russia’s competitive advantages exist and they are well known. In any case, our Hungarian partners would like our mutually beneficial, reliable and steady cooperation to continue. I am sure that, if all the other EU countries proceed from economic considerations and the interests of their own countries and not from politicised and ideological approaches being imposed on them from the outside, this would benefit all the European countries.