Hungary under 'great pressure' from US, Orban says
The United States is putting Hungary under "great pressure" over its energy ties to Russia because of the Ukraine crisis, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was quoted as saying for the first time Friday.
"The US is putting Hungary under great pressure," Hungarian media cited Orban as saying in Munich, Germany late Thursday after a meeting with Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer.
The former communist European Union member's relations with Russia have become "entangled in geopolitical and military and security policy issues," he said.
The US State Department last month issued US entry bans on six Hungarian officials including the head of the tax authority over alleged corruption.
In September US President Barack Obama criticised Hungary for harassing civil organisations.
The top US diplomat in Hungary, Andre Goodfriend, said in October that "negative trends" have "rapidly taken hold".
Orban said Washington views as "rapprochement to Russia" Hungary's support for the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project as well as an expansion by Russia's Rosatom of Hungary's only nuclear power plant.
But Orban, 51, who has been accused at home and abroad of eroding democratic norms in the central European country, said that he only had Hungary's interests at heart.
"We don't want to get close to anyone, and we don't intend to move away from anybody," Orban said.
"We are not pursuing a pro-Russian policy but a pro-Hungarian policy.
"He said that the expansion of the nuclear plant was the "only possible means .
to reduce dependence on external energy resources" and that "cheap energy is key in strengthening Hungary's competitiveness".
Orban also defended South Stream, which to the annoyance of Brussels, Washington and Kiev will bypass Ukraine, saying it was a "twin of Nord Stream", a pipeline bringing Russian gas to northern Germany which also bypasses Ukraine.
It "ensures Hungary gas supplies by eliminating risks posed by situation in Ukraine," Orban said.
"Even if South Stream does not diversify gas sources, it diversifies delivery routes.
"Budapest approved a law Monday seen as a green light for the construction of the Hungarian section of the South Stream pipeline in defiance of European Union policy.
The EU has blocked the project and threatened to fine member states if they go ahead with construction as part of joint sanctions with the US against Russia over its role in the conflict in Ukraine.
Orban, who has called the sanctions "counter-productive" has been repeatedly criticised by the EU and the United States over what they see as his cosiness with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
© 2014 AFP