Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Hungarians must not be made to pay price of war, minister says

Szijjarto: NATO stance coincides with Hungary’s national interests

The position adopted by NATO on the war in Ukraine continues to coincide with Hungary's national interests, namely that everything must be done to ensure that the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine's borders, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Berlin on Sunday.
16. May 2022 7:04

Addressing a press conference during a break in an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Szijjarto said that as a neighbouring country to Ukraine, what mattered most to Hungary was that the conflict did not spread beyond Ukraine’s borders. That is why, he said, it was “especially good news” that this was the position being taken by the alliance in line with the stance adopted by NATO’s strongest member states.

Everyone in NATO “knows that Hungary is on the side of peace” and as a neighbour to Ukraine is in a “special situation”, the minister said, adding that “fortunately the voice of common sense is strong enough” within the alliance.

He underlined that NATO is a defence alliance, “and our most important duty and interest is protecting Hungary and the Hungarian people”.

The position that everything must be done to prevent direct conflict between NATO and Russia also enjoys broad support, Szijjarto said.

The situation is “extremely fragile” and requires great caution, he said. “We, of course, understand and respect that quite a few member states” are aiding Ukraine with weapons deliveries, he said, adding, at the same time, that it was crucial that those deliveries are not made “within the framework of NATO”.

The members of the alliance agree that “NATO is not sending weapons into this conflict”, he said. The reason why Hungary decided not to send weapons to its north-eastern neighbour and banned the transit of weapons deliveries through its territory into Ukraine was to ensure that it does not get dragged into the war, he added.

Member states also discussed the need to maintain “strategic dialogue with Russia” in the interest of preventing an escalation of the conflict and any “tragic consequences due to certain misunderstandings”, Szijjarto said. Hungary fully supports this position and welcomes this week’s phone call between the US secretary of defence and Russia’s defence minister, he added.

Concerning the humanitarian aspects of the crisis, Szijjarto said he had told the meeting that Hungary has taken in almost 700,000 refugees from Ukraine. “We of course allow entry to everyone fleeing the war and provide care for them,” he said. Based on the “dynamics” of the war, the number of refugees entering Hungary is not declining, and Hungary is prepared to help anyone fleeing the war, he said.

The meeting also touched on the sanctions being imposed on Russia, Szijjarto said, adding that it was “pointless” to impose sanctions that “hurt us more than the country we would impose them on”.

Concerning Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, Szijjarto said Hungary had always backed the alliance’s “open door policy”, adding, however, that the position expressed by Turkey should also be taken into consideration.

As regards NATO’s planned new Strategic Concept, Szijjarto said the alliance must also pay attention to “security challenges” from the south as well as terrorism and illegal migration.

Terrorist groups are looking to take advantage of the fact that Europe’s focus is on the war in Ukraine, and with both Russia and Ukraine being among the world’s top grain exporters, a fall in exports due to the conflict could cause serious food shortages in areas that are already less stable, Szijjarto said. This could lead to a rise in extremism and terrorism, which in turn could lead to the emergence of new migration waves, he added.

Hungarians must not be made to pay price of war, minister says

Hungary’s government insists that the Hungarian people must not be made to pay the price of the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto told public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, adding that Hungarians were in no way to blame for the outbreak of the war. Therefore if the European Commission intends to impose an oil embargo, it must financially and physically guarantee that the decision to phase out Russian oil imports will not hurt the Hungarian people or Hungary’s energy security, he said.

If the commission approved a proposal on an oil embargo right now, Hungary could not obtain the crude oil needed for its economy to function, the minister said.

Whether there will be an agreement on the matter is up to the EC at this point, Szijjarto said, adding that the Hungarian government’s position was clear. He said Brussels had yet to put forward a proposal that would compensate Hungary for the estimated 55-60 percent increase in fuel prices that an oil embargo would cause.

Szijjarto said it was easy to calculate the effects an oil embargo would have on Hungary. The government would only agree to such a proposal “if the European Commission offers a solution to the problems they created”, he added.

The first such problem, he said, was that Hungary’s oil refinery would have to be technically refitted, which would cost 500-550 million euros, Szijjarto said. Also, a further 200 million euros would have to be spent on a capacity upgrade of the pipeline through Croatia, he added.

If Hungary were to import crude not sourced from Russia, fuel prices in the country would rise by 55-60 percent, which would require a modernisation of Hungary’s energy system that would cost 15-18 billion euros and take five years, according to experts, the minister said.

Szijjarto noted that EU member states had agreed a few months ago in Paris that any steps taken to end the continent’s dependence on Russian energy would take into consideration the specific situation of each country.

A total of 65 percent of Hungary’s oil consumption comes from Russia, Szijjarto said, adding that the introduction of an oil embargo would therefore have “a nuclear bomb-like impact on the Hungarian economy”.

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