Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic – Photo: PMO (archive)

Orbán calls for ‘reasonable’ EU sanctions policy

Hungary wants the European Union to make changes to its sanctions policy so that it is built on more "reasonable foundations", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Belgrade on Friday. Orbán spoke after meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and accepting the Order of Merit of the Republic of Serbia in recognition of his services in developing cooperation and friendly relations between Serbia and Hungary.
16. September 2022 21:23

Sanctions generally are decided in places that are far away from the country that is being targeted, Orbán told a joint press conference with Vucic. “It’s easy to formulate a sanctions policy from Paris, Brussels, Madrid, and perhaps even Berlin,” he said. “We are closer to Russia, the country being sanctioned,” he added.

Orbán said that countries that are closer to the target of the sanctions “always suffer more”, arguing that it was therefore unsurprising that Hungary’s views on the sanctions differed from those of Brussels. Moreover, sanctions tend to be imposed by a stronger entity on a weaker one, “but we Europeans, who are dwarves when it comes to energy, are sanctioning an energy giant.”

“These sanctions are causing us very serious harm … they cost a lot of money, and there is a threat that they will erode a large part our achievements of the last ten years,” the prime minister said. He argued that skyrocketing energy prices would hurt Hungary’s foreign trade and current account balances.

The sanctions “that have been offered by the West” do not serve Hungary’s interests, Orbán said. “In fact they are a major threat to us.” He said most worrying was that “as we head into an increasingly severe economic crisis” it was becoming clear that the situation would improve immediately if the sanctions were lifted. “So it’s not just about us suffering from a long, painful series of measures, but that it could all be undone in a single move,” the prime minister argued.

Orbán said he would always argue against sanctions that hurt central Europe more than the country they are targeting.

In response to a question regarding the report about Hungary approved by the European Parliament on Thursday, Orbán said: “We’re not laughing about it anymore because we are bored with it; it is a boring joke they’re making for the third or fourth time — the EP approving a resolution condemning Hungary.”

“At first we thought it had some significance but now we just consider it a joke,” he added.

“The European left-wing has occupied the EP” and “our former party alliance”, the European People’s Party, has been gradually shifting to the left, Orbán said. The proportion of votes has precisely reflected this process, with the right-wing parties voting in support of Hungary and the left-wing parties voting against Hungary, he added.

Orbán said that instead of objective opinions, the report contained party political attacks.

“The standard of the approved document simply makes us consider it political propaganda or pamphleteering,” he added.

Hungary regularly holds elections involving the forming of a parliamentary majority, and whenever the majority is right wing, the left wing dislikes the situation and “they hold intifadas in the European Parliament”, Orbán said.

After receiving the award, Orbán said he considered the recognition an encouragement to continue boosting Hungary-Serbia friendship. The renowned 19th century statesman Istvan Szechenyi already recognised that the interests of Serbia and Hungary were so closely intertwined that they must maintain a friendship, the prime minister said. When the current Hungarian government is working for Serbian-Hungarian friendship it is fulfilling a long-standing mission, he added.

Hungary is a country that must maintain friendship with Serbia, Orbán said. “We have a shared goal: to jointly protect the southern gate to Europe, which is a mission and a responsibility for both countries,” he added.

Vucic said true friends could rely on each other even in hard times, and Serbia and Hungary “are definitely true friends”.

He said it was “an honour” to decorate Orbán with Serbia’s highest state award. Vucic thanked Orbán for his efforts to improve the two countries’ relations, which he said were “at an all-time high”.

Serbia is grateful to Hungary, “and particularly the Hungarian prime minister”, for its open and clear support of Serbia at all forums, whether the issue in question be European integration or regional or bilateral issues, the president said.

True friends are revealed during difficult times, and Hungary had the strength to stand with Serbia “even when it would have been easier to turn its back to it”, Vucic said. “So Hungary can be certain that Serbia will always remain its true friend and supporter,” he added.

Serbia and Hungary’s friendship mandates that the two countries continue to develop their strategic relations and cooperation, Vucic said.

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