Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Orbán: ‘They lied in Brussels to the people of Europe’

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public radio on Friday that "they lied in Brussels to the people of Europe" when they said that sanctions would not be extended to energy, and that this would lead to a swift end to the war in Ukraine.

European citizens are currently paying a “sanctions surcharge” for energy, which makes the future unstable, he said. “The question is whether we will make the situation even worse, given that in Brussels they want to introduce more and more sanctions,” he said.

The war in Ukraine is dragging on, with no hope of a swift ending, Orbán said. Meanwhile, large shareholders of energy companies, “starting with [financier] George Soros, are raking in billions in extra profits” thanks to sanctions-related energy price rises, he said.

Energy prices were driven by politically motivated decisions in Brussels rather than economic reasons, he said. Without the sanctions, energy prices would be the same as they were in April, at the time of the Hungarian general elections and the preceding campaign, when the price of gas and oil was expected to stabilise around 100 dollars, “which would have been manageable” without altering the government’s price-cap scheme.

Before the election campaign in Hungary got under way, a EU countries agreed “with the leadership of Germany and Hungary” at a summit in Versailles that not to extend sanctions to energy, he said. Germany “switched sides” in June, and Brussels imposed sanctions on oil and it has tabled similar measures against gas imports, he said.

Hungary would be in a much worse situation had the government not fought for an exemption from the sanctions against Russia, Orbán said.

Rather than worrying about energy prices, Hungary would have to contend with energy shortages, he said. At the same time, Hungary will have to adapt to market prices, which are “basically the same throughout Europe”, Orbán said.

Hungary has enough natural gas reserves to cover demand for up to five weeks, “even if no gas arrives” in the country, he said.

Regarding the European Union’s sanctions policy, Orbán said: “Most bad political decisions can be mended.” Unless the policy is changed, the “sanctions surcharge will be built into the economy and will stay in the long run, becoming a part of our lives in the coming five to ten years,” he said.

The prime minister said the government is protecting families and businesses through energy price caps, and households would pay on average 181,000 forints more each month without them. Hungary outperforms the rest of Europe when it comes to protecting households from energy price rises, providing support equal to 30 percent of the average salary, while in Germany this amounts to 20 percent, and for Austrians it comes to 6 percent, he said.

For the time being, Hungary’s budget can afford this, and hopes are high that this support can be maintained until 2023, he said.

He mentioned government’s caps on the price of firewood and coal as well as a 200 billion support scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises. Also, there is a programme to help out factories and one to protect jobs, he added.

Meanwhile, the government “expects” to pay a pension premium again this year. In line with its 2010 promise to protect the value of pensions, “it has given back the 13th month pensions”, based on the country’s economic performance, he said. “We are continuing to increase pensions in line with inflation,” he said.

When economic growth exceeds 3.5 percent, the government also pays a pension premium, Orbán added. “Although there is a debate about this, I think it will happen this year,” he said.

Referring to the opposition: he said “they play to a different tune”, so it would be a mistake for the government to base its policy on cooperation with them. He said they were financed “from America” and were beholden to those people funding them.

On the subject of the abortion law, the prime minister said the government did not plan to change the law. “I strongly oppose any kind of changes to the abortion law,” he said, adding that he was in favour of “the current system”. Orbán said currently there were more important issues to be dealt with such as sanctions, the war and skyrocketing energy prices.

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