Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Ukraine ‘shouldn’t blacklist’ Hungarian companies if eyeing support

If Ukraine is expecting financial support from Hungary, it should refrain from blacklisting its companies, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Tuesday, referring to the Ukrainian decision to blacklist Hungary's OTP Bank as an "international supporter of war". Orbán told a business forum in Doha, Qatar, that the country should "respect us more" if it is eyeing support with Hungarian contribution, "which for them is inevitable".
23. May 2023 16:16

Hungary’s viewpoint of the war differs from that of the European mainstream because it is a neighbour of Ukraine, which has a sizeable Hungarian minority, Orbán said in a discussion with Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait. Many of those Hungarians have lost their lives in the war, he added.

“This war is the failure of diplomacy. It should have never happened,” he said.

The main question is not “who invaded whom” but to save the lives that would be lost if the war continues, Orbán said.

After a ceasefire is negotiated, the issue of a new “security architecture of the European continent” should also be on the agenda, he said. Peace is only possible through an agreement between Russia and the US, he said.

Commenting on Ukraine’s decision to blacklist Hungary’s OTP Bank and Hungary’s announcement that it would block the European Peace Facility in response, Orbán said: “It’s a question of principle … if a country like Ukraine would like to get your financial support … they can’t put your companies on the blacklist … So if you need our money, please respect us, and don’t sanction our companies.”

Answering a question on Hungary “not being keen” on Sweden’s NATO accession, Orbán said political relations between Hungary and Sweden were “awfully wrong”. “We would not like to import conflicts into NATO”, and they should be solved before Sweden joined the alliance, he said.

Regarding the EU’s decision to withhold funding for Hungary, Orbán said that differences of opinion regarding “decoupling” concerning the bloc’s policy vis-a-vis Beijing and its handling of the Ukraine war were at the root of the decision.

Unlike the EU, Hungary stands for connectivity, and strengthening commercial and political ties, he said.

Chinese investments offer a “huge opportunity”. “Why should we miss it?” Orbán said. Whether China becomes a long-term opponent or partner of the West is “our decision”, Orbán said.

Hungary’s LNG purchases from Qatar, which Orbán announced on Monday, are expected to start in 2026, he said.

Besides energy security, Hungary also sees Qatar as a potential partner in agriculture, information technology and security, he said.

Christian and Muslim countries can find common ground along traditional values such as God, the nation and the family, he said.

Regarding the upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant, under way under a contract with Russian state-owned Rosatom, Orbán said acting along national interests in Europe quickly resulted in being branded pro-Russian. But, Orbán added, he stood for Hungary and Hungarian national interests.

Regarding his government’s ties with the US, Orbán said American Democrats were far more ideologically led than Republicans, and Democrats “like to convince you and sometimes force you how to live”.

“I don’t like it. We have our own culture, the culture defines how we live, don’t interfere, please!” Orbán said.

“Don’t educate us, don’t say what is good, what is bad… we don’t like that. It’s not your job.” No nation should tell Hungarians how to live their lives, he said.

Former President Donald Trump “understands” that, he added.

Orbán travelled to Doha on Sunday on an official visit at the invitation of his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. Finance Minister Mihaly Varga and Economic Development Minister Marton Nagy were part of the delegation.

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