Hungary's Orban voices support for Putin amid din of EU criticism

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for better relations between Russia and the European Union on Wednesday while visiting President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, despite diplomatic ties having reached a low point.

"The EU's economy is growing at such slow rates that it can't allow itself the luxury of not cooperating with those who may be dynamic for the development of its economy," Orban told reporters, according to state news agency TASS.

Economic sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict have strained relations with the 28-member EU.

Last year, commerce between Russia and Hungary decreased 40 per cent to 4.7 billion dollars, TASS reported.

"If Russia and the EU cannot improve their economic cooperation, we will lose together in comparison with the global economy," Orban said.

Putin and Orban's meeting at the Russian president's suburban residence Novo-Ogaryovo occurred exactly one year after they last met in Budapest, where they clinched a major deal for Russian natural gas imports to Hungary.

"We do hope that the plans we discussed a year ago during my visit to Hungary will move on and be implemented," Putin said Wednesday.

Orban said Hungarian industry would be crippled without Russian energy imports, which he described as vital.

Orban, who has staunchly opposed mass immigration from the Middle East into Europe, praised Putin for Russia's efforts to restore stability in the Middle East.

"Hungary is suffering from refugees," Orban said. "We highly appreciate all the efforts to resolve this problem, including Russia's efforts to stop the flow of migrants."

However, Russia's bombing campaign in Syria to support that country's government has been met with scorn among EU states that back rebel groups.

Some have even accused Russia of deliberately destabilizing the already war-torn country in a bid to exacerbate the migration crisis and further divide the EU.

Last year, Hungary erected a razor-wire fence across much of its southern border, essentially halting the flow of migrants into the country.

Bolstered border controls have proven a divisive issues in the EU, as it battles to salvage its free-movement Schengen zone amid security concerns over the 1 million migrants who entered the continent last year.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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