At the ensuing press conference, Orbán even mentioned the trade imbalance between the two countries – also a sign of disappointment from the Hungarian side. Side events such as the Eurasian Forum, however, were filled with markedly Eurasianist statements, repeated criticism of Ukraine for its handling of minority rights, and accusations of hypocrisy against the EU and its member states.

On the Eurasian Forum, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó proudly announced Hungary's veto of NATO ambassadors' joint declaration on Ukraine (that has been passed since then). These statements immediately found their way into the Kremlin's communications, and they are going to be immensely useful for President Putin to demonstrate to his domestic audience that Europe is fragmented, and some member states warmly welcome Russian leaders and supporting their line.


The bilateral meeting

Putin's delegation included Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, Minister for Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Minister of Healthcare Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Transport Yevgeny Dietrich, Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov, Rosneft CEO Nikolai Tokarev, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev. This is an extraordinarily strong, energy-focused Russian line-up. Such a strong business team might potentially serve as a tool to project power.


The results of the meeting

No announcements were made on the two most important topics of discussion: a long-term gas contract and the re-negotiation of the Paks 2 nuclear power station contract despite the well-articulated preliminary expectations of the Hungarian government to make progress on these two issues. The meeting's results clearly underperformed the government's expectations, which was diplomatically noted by Orbán at the press conference when he talked about the need to reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries (Hungary has a significant trade deficit with Russia).

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Apparently, the sides failed to agree on a renegotiated Paks 2 treaty, with opinions diverging especially on debt repayment conditions, which is unfavourable to the Hungarian side that has been actively lobbying for it. The current terms largely favour Russia, and Moscow is interested in keeping this uncertainty, which gives the Kremlin more leverage in bilateral relations. Russia has ensured that no matter what happens, it cannot lose on the project.

In contrast, the delayed finalisation of a long-term gas contract seems to be rather advantageous to Hungary, as Gazprom is in a very strong negotiation position, and the development of the Romanian-Exxon gas project can improve Hungary's negotiating position.

Before the press conference, eight agreements were signed on a wide range of topics, for example social security, oncology, sports and PE promotion, and oil and space, but none of them is as significant as the above-mentioned energy issues. The most important agreement is on Lukoil's compensation of MOL for delivering contaminated oil to the Hungarian company. While according to press information the parties agreed on a smaller compensation than the initial request, Szijjártó happily noted that Hungary was the first country reaching an agreement with Russia on this issue.

Both leaders highlighted defending Christian communities worldwide as an issue bonding the two sides. At the same time, Putin admitted that this idea came from the Hungarian side initially.

Orbán expressed support for both the Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline projects, which would ensure the "energy security" of the country.


Side events: Homage to Eurasia

There were side events held on the same day as the high-level bilateral meeting. They clearly showed that the Orbán regime wanted to please its Russian guests with messages that are music to the ears of the leaders of the Putin regime. These gestures seem to be motivated by the Orbán government's – so far rather unsuccessful – efforts to improve their negotiating position in the most important fields, including energy. At the same time, these statements found their way into the Kremlin's, which will clearly and understandably amplify the accusations that Hungary is serving Russian political interests.

A two-day-long Eurasian Forum was organised by the Hungarian Central Bank as a side event to the visit. At the Forum, Szijjártó proudly announced that "Hungary has vetoed the joint statement of NATO ambassadors on Ukraine", justifying this move by claiming that "Hungary refuses to sacrifice the Transcarpathian Hungarian community on the altar of geopolitics".

It was later revealed that the vetoed text was only a draft, and thereafter it was passed with an addendum requested by Hungary. Szijjártó also said that cooperation between the East and West, with Hungary as a bridgehead, is in the country's interest, adding that cooperation among Eurasian states is the best way to strengthen Europe and make it more competitive.

He repeatedly accused other EU member states of hypocrisy. The foreign minister criticised them for raising their concerns about intensive Russian-Hungarian relations, while parallelly strengthening their own economic relations with Russia despite the sanctions.

Hungarian Central Bank head György Matolcsy added that "After the Atlantic era we face a new era, a Eurasian Era". Matolcsy hailed the Eastern economic opening beyond Russia as well, claiming that "Hungary is leading the way in building relations between the East and West, and was the first European country to join the Belt and Road Initiative". Moreover, he said that a Eurasian common currency might be created, probably a digital one tied to electricity and gold.

Additionally, there was a forum held for the leaders of Middle Eastern Christian communities. It was announced after the Szijjárto-Lavrov meeting in New York in September, when the sides argued that "Hungary and Russia acknowledged that Christianity is the most persecuted religion on Earth (…)" Szijjártó added that Hungary is also proving it is taking responsibility for all the world's Christian communities through action. At the same time, according to press information, leaders of Christian communities in danger on the territory of Turkey and parts of Syria threatened by Turkey were not invited to the meeting.


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