Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Hungary pro-peace, PM says

Orbán: EU sanctions policy ‘primitive, catastrophic’

The European Union's sanctions policy against Russia is "primitive in execution and catastrophic in effect", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a discussion in Berlin on Tuesday.
11. October 2022 20:00

At the podium discussion with Alexander Marguier, editor-in-chief of the political magazine Cicero, and Holger Friedrich, owner of the publisher of Berliner Zeitung, Orbán said an “appropriate sanctions policy” would have stopped energy prices from skyrocketing and European economies would not be facing ruin. The EU’s sanctions policy “ignores European values”, it destroys the German and Hungarian economies, while it “helps Moscow to as much gains in energy revenues in six months as it earlier earned in a year”, Orbán insisted. He stressed that he did not oppose “sanctions as a means” but their implementation.

Sanctions should be imposed “intelligently”, Orbán said. In the EU’s case, “a dwarf is imposing sanctions on a giant … and the dwarf will perish in the effort,” he said.

He called for a review of EU sanctions and an energy supply reform so the EU achieves independence rather than “merely switching masters” by pivoting from dependence on Russia to dependence on the US. The latter, he said, “would be more convenient politically, because Americans, unlike Russians, are democrats” but “it would not be good” because Europe, as customer, “should have four or five offers on the table to choose from”. Europe should be able to “buy energy for example from America, Algeria, Qatar, or even Russia”, he said.

“If we had done the sanctions right, energy prices would not be soaring,” the prime minister said, adding “sanctions could be launched in a way that we do not destroy ourselves in the area of energy, but the commission has failed to do so”. “Therefore when it comes to sanctions I am forced to say that I have a problem, and … unless you come and help I will use my veto … you cannot kick Hungarians aside and into a corner,” Orbán said.

Concerning energy imports from Russia, Orbán said it was uncertain whether Moscow would resume supplies “especially when certain groups launch terrorist attacks and blow up pipelines” and “they could not deliver even if they wanted to”. “We are very concerned that the same could happen to the last remaining high volume pipeline, the South Stream,” he said.

“Russian gas or oil in themselves are not bad, the problem is that there is nothing else and we are vulnerable,” and “the question is not whether the Russians can supply us but how many potential suppliers we have and if there is a competition between energy suppliers,” Orbán said.

Hungary pro-peace, PM says

“Hungary is in the peace camp,” Orbán said, adding that he supported an immediate ceasefire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Orbán said it was a “big problem” that “this time, unlike the Crimean conflict, the conflict could not be isolated”. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately initiated peace talks, thus avoiding an international crisis, he said.

He called it a “mistake” that while he had made a “peace mission” to Moscow before the war broke out, “nobody in the West thought they should negotiate”, despite the fact, Orbán said, that he had briefed the NATO Secretary-General of the impending threat.

As to his own approach regarding the conflict, Orbán said he prioritised Hungarian interests. “The country, in the immediate range of the war, is feeling threatened,” he said. While Hungary continues to do everything in its power to promote peace, it will not aid Ukraine to the detriment of Hungarians, he said.

“The international debate is too focused on Putin,” Orbán said. Orbán’s own focus, at the same time, was “Hungary and Europe, and the war’s consequences for us.”

The Hungarian government’s stance on the war is in line with the EU’s; it sees it as aggression, and Russia is in breach of international law, he said.

The prime minister also said that according to the “realities of power”, a ceasefire in the war in Ukraine should be negotiated not between Russia and Ukraine but between Russia and the United States. The essence of the war is in resources, he said. And while Russia has a near limitless supply of energy, troops and human resources, Ukraine only has enough resources because it is receiving help from the West and the United States, he added.

Orbán said US President Joe Biden “went too far” when he labelled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and a “mass murderer”. He said that in his view the “hope for peace” was therefore former US president Donald Trump.

He said the consequence of the conflict in Ukraine was that “our weakness has become clear”, arguing that there were several international players, like China and India, that had not sided with the Western community.

In response to a question, Orbán said at his talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz he had asked the chancellor to “be tolerant over issues on which the two countries are not in agreement”, such as Hungary’s rejection of migration, its opposition to multiculturalism and its insistence on a traditional family concept. “While former Chancellor Angela Merkel had consistently rejected that request, Scholz now listened,” Orbán said, adding that he hoped his next official visit to Berlin, planned in two years, when Hungary would be the next rotating president of the European Council, would result in further progress. He said ties between Hungary and Germany were “special”, adding that “by all means they serve as a good basis for further developing bilateral cooperation”. Concerning economic ties, the prime minister highlighted the automotive and defence industries, and welcomed that more and more German researchers were coming to Hungary.

Orbán also said that there was a “line of division” in Europe on issues like migration, gender, the family and national interests. Those to the east of this line think in terms of a traditional family model, they oppose migration and national pride is their most important “buoyant force”, he said. Orbán added that it was important for the countries of the Visegrad Group to protect this stance.

“Over the course of history there have always been great powers that wanted to tell us how to live,” Orbán said. Today, although under democratic conditions, they still want to decide what a Hungarian family should be like and what the ethnic composition of Hungary should be, he added, pointing out that he had been “fighting against this” since the beginning of his political career.

Orbán also touched on the negative effects of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. Britain never accepted the concept of a federal Europe, either, but their departure means that the federalists are now predominant, he added. If the UK had not left the EU, the dynamism seen over the last 30 years would have been preserved, the prime minister said.

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