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- My intention is to try and work out a formula in which, by clearly naming our differences and respecting the sensitivities of our Ukrainian friends, we will be able to return to cooperation within the Visegrad Group as well as to joint activities with Hungary in the areas where we share the same values and common interests. I believe that developing such a shared platform is possible. Also, Polish people are probably more ready for this today than they were in March or April- Prime Minister Morawiecki said in an interview with the pro-government weekly "Sieci".
- Our paths diverged because of our different attitudes toward the war in Ukraine. But I think that over time, all the other issues in which we have shown solidarity, understanding, and mutual support will bring us back together. I would very much like that- the Prime Minister explained.
According to Morawiecki, "cooperation within the Visegrad Group format strengthens our countries substantially". - In this case, one plus one, plus one, plus one equals not four, but seven or eight. That is why it is our group that lasts despite changing governments, sometimes with very diverging views - the PM emphasized.
The announcement signals a pivot in Poland’s diplomatic relations with Hungary. Back in July, PM Morawiecki stated that "Poland and Hungary's paths have diverged".
The Polish Prime Minister referred to the words of Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, who since the beginning of Putin’s aggression on Ukraine has distanced himself from condemning Russia and spoke out against imposing sanctions and providing arms and aid to Ukraine.
Orbán described the war as a "conflict between two Slavic nations", and said that Poland is "participating in the war". Even before the Russian invasion, Budapest's relations with Kyiv were rather cool, and Hungary blocked, among other things, Ukraine's efforts to join NATO. As an excuse, Orbán’s government pointed to the Ukrainian amendment of the education law, which, according to the Hungarian narrative, targets the Hungarian minority in Zakarpattia.
Hungary was also the most ardent opponent of a total embargo on Russian oil and gas. Instead, Orbán negotiated a deal with Russia allowing for oil imports to refineries belonging to the MOL corporation (MOL recently acquired most of Poland’s Lotos petrol stations) in Hungary and Slovakia.
Russian companies also happen to be the main contractor for the Hungarian government’s biggest investment - the €10 billion expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant. The loan for this purpose was provided by Moscow.
The Hungarian PM has often been Putin’s guest in the Kremlin, and most recently attended Gorbachev's funeral in Moscow. In November 2021, the Russian President awarded Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto with a Medal of Friendship.
The sudden change in strategy announced by PM Morawiecki can be considered in a twofold way. First of all, the PiS and Fidesz governments need each other's support given their open conflict with the European Union over the rule of law and freedom of speech. They are the only EU member states that have not yet received funds under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
Secondly, in return for its pro-Russian policy, Moscow is supplying Hungary with gas and raw materials amid a looming energy crisis. In July, Szijjarto closed a new deal with Russia during his visit to Moscow, and Hungary failed to mention it to the European Union. Theoretically, Poland could benefit from that.
Starting in September, Budapest will get up to 5.8 million cubic meters of gas per day. The raw material will flow through the Turkish Stream pipeline via Serbia. Hungary and Cyprus are also the only EU countries that have not expelled any Russian diplomats after Russia invaded Ukraine.
It remains to be seen how Hungary and other members of the Visegrad Group will react to Prime Minister Morawiecki's words.
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