Hungary, Russia relations on new footing, says minister - paper
<p>Budapest, September 4 (MTI) - Hungary and Russia will place their relationship on a new footing, Hungarian National Development Minister Tamas Fellegi told Saturday s Magyar Nemzet daily, after holding talks in the Russian capital last week.</p>
"I feel that this is desired by both sides," he said.
Fellegi, who is also government commissioner in charge of Hungarian-Russian economic relations, held talks with First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov of Russia last Friday, but declined to talk about what was discussed to reporters afterwards. A subsequent statement released by the ministry, only said that Hungarian-Russian economic cooperation was one of the primary objectives in Hungary s effort to strengthen relations with countries lying to the east.
Important current issues with Russia include the future of Russian Surgutneftegas s 21.2 percent stake in Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, the resolution of the capital situation of formerly Russian-owned Hungarian airline Malev and possible Russian involvement in the construction of a fourth block at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in central Hungary.
Fellegi told the paper that a solution is sought regarding Malev which will allow the carrier to remain a national airline, "in its current or an alternative form".
He said that the talks highlighted the energy sector as one of the key areas of cooperation.
Regarding Surgutneftegas, the minister said the Russian side would treat the issue of Surgutneftegas s Mol stake as a priority. Asked whether the Hungarian state would buy back the stake from the company, Fellegi told the paper that the state wants to increase its leverage in the energy sector and does not welcome foreign stakeholders in strategic national companies.
"We will make it clear to all our partners, including the Russians, that it is our intention to strengthen the state s role in the energy sector and other strategic areas," he said.
"The cabinet has a clear vision, ... in large strategic companies regarded as Hungarian and based in Hungary it will not welcome the appearance of a foreign stakeholder, which would threaten the company s (national) identity," Fellegi told the paper. "This is the case with Mol, too," he added.
As regards the Paks nuclear plant s block construction project, Fellegi said he had experienced "interest, but not pressure" from the Russian side regarding its participation in the project.