Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Orbán: EU sanctions on gas, nuclear energy ‘would have tragic consequences for Hungary’

The extension of European Union sanctions to Russian gas and nuclear energy "would have tragic consequences for Hungary", and the government is working to obtain exemption from any such decisions, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio on Friday. Early in the war, the European Union hoped to conclude the war through sanctions or at least facilitate that goal, but they have "taken us not an inch closer" to the end of the conflict, Orbán said in the interview.

“We are facing a hard winter,” with the situation in Ukraine becoming tougher, Orbán said. Meanwhile, although Russia had suffered losses, its energy revenues are spiking, and so the “sanctions policy has failed to achieve its purpose”, he said.

While Hungary has achieved an exemption from the restriction on crude which will come into force on Dec. 5, and so has access to the oil necessary to run the country, it cannot extricate itself from the effects of the sanctions on prices, Orbán said.

Hungary has so far “always achieved its national goals” in the negotiations on sanctions, “and so we are hopeful going into the next round of debates on the 9th package”. At the same time, the government has to fight against “constant pressure” so as to “protect our interests”, he said.

Hungary is against the European Union financing the operation of the Ukrainian state from a loan taken out jointly by its members, and stands by aid through bilateral agreements between member states and the war-torn country, Orbán said.

“We would not like to see the EU become a community of states amassing joint debts instead of a community of cooperating member states,” he said.

Hungary is generally against all policies based on joint loans, Orbán said. “We would not like the EU to become a community … of jointly indebted states,” he said. Such a measure would “burden our children and even grandchildren and compel us to pay the share of states that might go bankrupt in the meantime,” he said.

Due to the war, Ukraine is now unable to finance itself. Hungary accepts that the aid is necessary, but “we are not happy with it — without the war, we wouldn’t have this expense,” Orbán said.

Orbán called the concept of the global minimum corporate tax a “job killing tax hike”, and said the government refused to approve its introduction in Hungary.

Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost in the country if the global minimum tax were to be introduced, he said.

“We cannot afford it,” he said, adding that “the tax issue is not a global one, it falls under national jurisdiction”.

Every country must decide for itself what tax system it applies, he said. The reason voters like democracy is precisely that they get to pick a government which promises a certain tax policy, he added.

“If we were to give this up, we would give up the Hungarian people’s right to decide an important element of Hungary’s economic policy: tax policy,” he said. “As a result, we do not think the global minimum tax is a good idea either for jobs or for democracy and we therefore do not approve its introduction in Hungary,” he added.

Regarding Hungary’s access to EU funding, Orbán said “Brussels is unfair with Hungary” due to fundamental differences in opinion and political reasons, but an agreement must be sought regardless.

The EU’s refusal to approve Hungary’s recovery plan for the past 18 months was “for obvious political reasons”. “They don’t like the Hungarian government” as a consequence of a differences of opinions on fundamental issues, he added. Brussels would have preferred a left-wing government to enter power after the general election and they “rolled the dollars to the left wing to help them win” instead of giving the money to the country, he said. After the elections were won by the right wing, the European Commission was forced to negotiate with Hungary, he added.

Orbán said patience was needed because “we must seek an agreement” despite the EC repeatedly setting new conditions.

The government, however, will refuse to change its position on certain basic issues, such as migration, allowing sexual propaganda in schools and the introduction of sanctions, he said.

Meanwhile, the government is calculating with a 1.5 percent growth, which would be enough to maintain the utility price caps which leave 181,000 forints (EUR 440) with families on average every month, Orbán said.

“If Hungary’s government, entrepreneurs and employees work well” in the coming years, Hungary could avoid going into recession, Orbán said.

Opposition parties slam PM’s remarks on sanctions, energy supplies

Opposition parties have criticised Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s statements on European Union sanctions against Russia, energy supplies and aid for Ukraine, in his regular interview with public broadcaster Kossuth Radio. Conservative Jobbik said that Orbán had “lost sight of reality”, noting that the prime minister had voted in favour of all sanctions against Russia in the EU.

At the same time, Orbán failed to address the fact that Hungarian food price growth had outstripped all other European countries’ and that the forint had plunged into record depths in the autumn. The government “has cancelled the utility price cut scheme and is causing a shortage economy with its price caps harking back to the communist era,” the party said.

Meanwhile, “Hungary and Hungarians are stripped of the EU monies they are entitled to, because of Viktor Orbán and his government,” Jobbik said.

Momentum leader Ferenc Gelencser, reacting to Orbán’s statement that “Hungarians have understood that, whether they like it or not, Ukraine needs support”, said Hungarian society had taken a “humane and fair” approach to Ukrainians and Transcarpathia Hungarians. “It was not the government but civil organisations, which the government has been persecuting for years, who took the lion’s share in helping people fleeing Ukraine and those staying in their homeland,” he said.

LMP said that contrary to what Orbán said, Russian gas was not cheap and “the prime minister said himself that the long-term contract concluded with Russia last year was no guarantee for secure supplies.” The solution would be a green transition, the party said.

Ruling Fidesz responded by saying that “the pro-war and pro-sanction stance” of the left-wing opposition parties “threaten Hungary”. They would sacrifice Hungary’s security and energy supply in exchange for “rolling foreign dollars”, the party said in a statement.

The left-wing parties continue to lobby for sanctions by Brussels which will destroy Europe and threaten the Hungarian economy and the livelihood of Hungarian families, it said.

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