In the recent Russian country focus of Diplomacy & Trade, Leonid Grigoryevich Shurigin, the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in Hungary looks back at an important bilateral event, the the meeting in Budapest this autumn, of the Russian-Hungarian Intergovernmental Commission and also talks about economic relations between Russia and Hungary.
As Leonid Grigoryevich Shurigin explains to Diplomacy & Trade, the Russian-Hungarian Intergovernmental Commission. is the highest level intergovernmental forum that regularly deals with Russian-Hungarian economic relations. “I believe its most important role is to give impetus to bilateral economic relations, try to find further opportunities and create a forum for the resolution of various problems.”
The commission discussed areas like the energy and machinery industry, agriculture, construction and banking. Shurigin is of the view that as far as Hungary’s energy supply is concerned, projects such as the planned Southern Stream pipeline that would cross Hungary are very important. “Despite various reports, I must stress that this is not just a Gazprom project, it is rather a pan-European project as participants include countries such as France, Germany, Italy and others. In my opinion, the implementation of this project will help create a reliable energy supply for Hungary,” he points out.
As for nuclear energy cooperation, he believes the experience gained in the past three decades in the Paks power station project is the best piece of reference for cooperation in the future, as well. “Actually, there is an ongoing cooperation as we are already helping modernize the existing blocs of the power station, increasing capacity by 13%, and also providing new types of fuel for them. We hope to participate in the construction of the two new blocs, as well.”
Russian people have a lot of good memories of Hungarian products (like Ikarus buses, agricultural products and technology or medicine) from the Soviet times. It was a different system, a different mechanism. Nowadays, cooperation is not based on political foundation but on market conditions. Still, the Representative believes, one can build on that old experience. “We see a good chance for Hungary to increase its agricultural exports to the Russian market. Russian investors are interested in setting up companies here whose produce could be taken to Russia.”
The inter-governmental commission also touched upon the flow of Russian tourists to Hungary. Their number increased by some 30% last year, to about 160,000 people spending half a million guest nights here, and by 20% in the first half of 2013, making Russia the third largest country of origin in incoming tourism in Hungary. The main destinations are Budapest, Lake Balaton and the spa towns. Shurigin believes the future holds great Prospects, primarily in medical tourism, utilizing Hungary’s great medicinal water assets. There is direct air connection from Moscow to Balaton Airport near the spa town Hévíz, and WizzAir now operates a daily flight between the Russian and Hungarian capitals with plans for a regular flight from Budapest to St. Petersburg, also.
This is Leonid Shurigin’s fourth term serving Russian economic diplomacy in Hungary, having spent over two decades here altogether. No wonder he speaks excellent Hungarian. When admitted to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, his assignment was to learn Hungarian and deal with Hungarian issues. “Actually, I already had some knowledge about Hungary, especially through pop-rock music. I have always been fond of Hungarian music and not only the modern genres; I also like Hungarian folk music – as does my wife. One of our favorites is the Muzsikás Ensemble.”
He says he is grateful to fate for this life. “It is a very interesting country, people are very kind. There are several people I have had professional partnerships with for 20 years and I have a lot of Hungarian friends, too. I am always very pleased to return to Hungary.”
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