EU should lift sanctions against Belarus
05. 06. 2020.
Hungary takes the view that the European Union should finally lift sanctions against Belarus, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday in Minsk after he had talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus is a participant of the EU’s Eastern Partnership strategy; however, partnerships cannot be built with sanctions, Mr Orbán stressed at a joint press conference held in Independence Palace, describing economic and trade cooperation between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union as a European interest.

Regarding Hungarian-Belarusian relations, he said “the two nations and the two countries are much closer to one another than we tend to believe”.

Belarus plays an important role also from the respect of Hungary’s energy security as the entirety of Hungary’s oil imports is conducted via a pipeline that passes through Belarus, the Prime Minister said.

In the context of nuclear energy, the Prime Minister stressed that they reject discrimination against nuclear energy. Hungary is closely monitoring the construction of a new power station in Belarus which is being built with a technology similar to that of Paks 2, he added.

He also announced that Hungary had opened a credit line worth EUR 40 million at Eximbank in order to provide funding for cooperation between Belarusian and Hungarian businesses.

He observed that pharmaceutical products accounted for one half of Hungarian exports to Belarus.

Wizz Air will launch a scheduled service between the two countries shortly, Mr Orbán said.

He also mentioned that every year Hungary provides state scholarships for 50 Belarusian students.

Mr Orbán further spoke about the settlement of the situation in Ukraine; regarding this, he described the so-called Minsk Process as the only hope.

At the press conference, Alexander Lukashenko thanked Mr Orbán for his visit to Minsk which, in his view, “is a bold step” in today’s epidemic situation.

In his view, the parties’ talks testify to the fact that cooperation between the two countries “is on the increase”.

The President said Hungary is Belarus’s closest partner in the EU, “they understand us much better than anyone else”.

Belarus-EU relations have in recent years become more pragmatic and more equal, and this is something that Budapest is playing a significant role in, he added, stressing that “we continue to remain open to a dialogue based on mutual respect and equal rights”.

At the talks, the parties also spoke about the situation in Ukraine which is destabilising security in Europe and is a challenge for the entire region, he said.

In the context of Belarusian-Hungarian economic relations, Mr Lukashenko made special mention of a Belarusian-Hungarian-Swiss cooperation scheme in the production of Stadler electric trains.

He also observed that they saw a great opportunity in the joint production of coaches, in particular, electric buses.

The President further spoke about nuclear energy, pointing out that both countries stumbled into “impertinent attempts” seeking to foil the implementation of peaceful nuclear projects; however, both countries had firm answers to these challenges.

“I am certain that in every area cooperation between the two countries has a great future,” the Belarusian President stated in conclusion.

In answer to a question about economic cooperation between the two countries, the Belarusian President and the Hungarian Prime Minister agreed that the goal was to double trade to EUR 500 million.

Mr Lukashenko highlighted the construction industry, the pharmaceutical industry and nuclear energy as areas of cooperation.

Mr Orbán said with his visit he sought to make it clear that Belarusians can count on Hungarians also regarding political and economic issues that are important for them, and wanted to give a signal that there is full political support behind the cooperation of the two countries’ business communities.

In answer to the question of a Belarusian journalist about why many in the Western world want to force their method for the management of the coronavirus epidemic upon others, Mr Orbán said Westerners often look upon themselves as people who stand for ideals that are superior to ours. At the same time, there are many countries that do not make it clear that “this is our country, this is our life”. He said, “we are living in the era of the emancipation of the East and the West”. In Central Europe ever more countries are laying down that “we will focus on our own interests,” he observed.

In the context of the management of the epidemic, he drew attention to the fact that the EU which “is taking meticulous pains” to minimise the role of the state in the development of the economy is now urging states to put as much money into economic development as possible. “We don’t have to be shy because if Westerners pump enormous amounts of money [into the economy] as they are doing now, if we don’t want to fall behind, if our businesses want to remain competitive, then we ourselves must reinforce our businesses with capital,” the Prime Minister said.

He expects Hungary to swiftly get over the difficulties of 2020, and envisages fantastic years ahead.

Mr Lukashenko also said “the reason why Western states can afford themselves what they do is because we tolerate it”. He added that in connection with the epidemic many countries would like to change the world.