December 8, 2022

Hungarian FM on Russia’s war in Ukraine: ‘We want peace, not another sanctions package’


/ Shows / Talking Europe Issued on: 25/11/2022 – 17:40


TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24 Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto doesn’t rule out vetoing a ninth package of sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine – a package that is currently being prepared by the EU, along with a proposed price cap on Russian oil. “We want peace, not another [sanctions] package,” he says. “We are a direct neighbour of Ukraine. The impact of the war on us is immediate and severe,” he asserts. Szijjarto defends his country’s close energy ties with Moscow and responds to the EU’s continuing accusations of corruption. The day after this interview was recorded, the EU Commission president announced that she would recommend the freezing of payments to Hungary under the EU pandemic recovery fund as well as under regular EU cohesion funds, because of rule of law concerns in Hungary.

Asked whether his recent speech at an energy forum in sanctions-hit Russia sent the wrong signal to his EU partners, Szijjarto replied: “We have always considered the energy issue as physical, not ideological. The fact that we are cooperating with Russia is not because of our political taste, or for fun, but because of the infrastructure determination of the region. If you look at a map of central Europe, when it comes to pipelines, when it comes to grids, then you understand very clearly that, for my country, it is impossible to supply enough oil and gas without Russia.”

As for those in the EU who are criticising Hungary for cooperating with the Russian nuclear energy company ROSATOM to expand the PAKS nuclear plant in Hungary, Szijjarto retorted: “They are hypocrites. When we put together the current sanctions regime – I mean we as the European Union – we made it clear that the peaceful, commercial use of nuclear energy does not fall under the sanctions regime. It is written there!”

Turning to rule of law issues and corruption claims against Hungary, Szijjarto discussed the package of 17 “remedial measures” that Budapest has put on the table, in order to unblock billions of euros of EU funds earmarked for Hungary. “There was an agreement on an almost complete list,” he said. “We put all the drafts on the agenda of the [Hungarian] parliament. The parliament has been working on them. I’m pretty sure that we will be able to adopt these 17 pieces of regulation. Then the ball will be in the court of the European Commission.”

The minister also responded to a November 17 written assessment by a cross-party panel of European MEPs that said the Hungarian government had only implemented three out of the 17 remedial measures: “The European Parliament is not a stakeholder,” he went on. “The European Parliament is a political body making political judgments, based on a leftist majority. They hate us, politically speaking, because we’ve had a conservative, Christian Democratic government in place for the last 12 years, and on top of that, we’re successful.”

Produced by Perrine Desplats, Isabelle Romero and Sophie Samaille

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *