Russia sanctions lose Hungary USD 6.5 bln, says Szijjártó

Int’l Relationsárton Kovács

Hungaryʼs economy has suffered export losses of USD 6.5 billion in the past three years due to the economic sanctions against Russia, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant, published on Tuesday, according to Hungarian news agency MTI.  

Szijjártó said these are sensitive losses as Hungaryʼs annual exports amount to USD 90 bln. The minister described the sanctions as both ineffective and harmful, expressing hope that the European Union would ease the punitive economic measures at its March summit. Much depends on the dialogue between Russia and the United States, he said, adding that if all goes well in that respect then it would be easier to convince European partners to follow suit.   

"The EU follows the lead of the U.S. in many respects in terms of relations with Moscow, and we have not liked Americaʼs policy on Russia. This is why we welcome Donald Trumpʼs victory," Szijjártó  said, adding that Hungary supports U.S.-Russia dialogue and would also like to be a "pillar" of rebuilding Europe-Russia ties.

Unless Europe pursues pragmatic dialogue with Moscow, much will be lost, not least in the competition with China, the U.S. and the U.K., Szijjártó said. The minister added that the debate over sanctions against Russia has descended to a low level in the EU, with several European countries by now opposed to the measures. When it came to a vote, however, Hungary was alone in its position and in the end decided against using its veto because it did not wish to upset EU unity, he noted. 

Speaking of the scheduled visit to Budapest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, due on February 2, the minister said the talks will focus on economic matters. He expressed hope that the European Commission will soon take its decision on approval of the upgrade of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant and that investments can begin. He also noted that Hungary wants to conduct talks with Russian gas giant Gazprom on cooperation after 2021.

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