BUDAPEST, March 28 (Reuters) - Hungary is against the European Union imposing a round of economic sanctions on Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was quoted as saying in an interview published on Friday.
The central European country of 10 million people relies on Russia for about 80 percent of its natural gas needs and recently signed a 10 billion euro deal with Moscow for Rosatom to expand Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant, a major power generator.
Russia is also Hungary’s largest trading partner outside the European Union, with exports worth 2.55 billion euros in 2013.
“Economic sanctions are in the third round and it would be fortunate to avoid these because it is not in the interests of either Europe, or much less Hungary,” Orban was quoted as saying by the business daily Vilaggazdasag.
Messages over the past week from officials in the EU’s 11 ex-Communist member states indicated that most are going to resist any attempt by the bloc to impose the next stage of sanctions - on trade and economic ties.
Orban said the Ukraine crisis and the political sanctions since imposed have not affected Hungary’s nuclear deal with Moscow so far and that he hoped this would remain the case.
The head of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, said on Thursday that some of its international contracts could be affected by Western sanctions, RIA news agency reported.
On Thursday, Hungary and Slovakia connected their gas networks as part of European Union efforts to strengthen supply security in a region of the bloc heavily dependent on imports from Russia. (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Mark Heinrich)