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The EU’s proposal to phase out Russian oil may create a situation where Hungary runs out of fuel and other oil products important for its industry, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned in an interview on Friday. Hungary will not accept such a proposal, he said. At the same time, Hungary will be happy to discuss proposals in line with Hungarian interests, he said.
Revamping Hungary’s energy production and transmission system to oil products other than those from Russia would take up to five years, he said. While the EU has allocated money to funding the developments, “they are yet to give us that money, and we cannot start the works until that arrives”, unless Hungary takes out loans form the market to cover the costs, he said. “I have sent this back to President [Ursula von der Leyen] to be reworked, we are now waiting for the new proposal,” he said.
Hungary must at least maintain its veto on the issues most important for the country, he said. As a result, he said he had been willing to approve the first five packages of sanctions but made it clear that the energy embargo would be a red line.
They also wanted to put Orthodox leader Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on the sanctions list but “we will not support including church leaders” on the list because that would affect the freedom of religion for Hungarian communities which is “sacred and inviolable”, Orbán said.
Hungary stands for peace and wants the parties in the Ukraine war to agree to a ceasefire and start peace talks as soon as possible, Orbán said. He noted that he had visited Moscow “in the interest of peace” before the war started in February, as had French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. None of them succeeded, he said. Hungary must stay out of this war, he said, adding that at the same time, the country was providing record-large humanitarian aid. Hungarian society as a whole has become mobilised, he said. “Hungarians are now disregarding how Ukrainians used to treat ethnic Hungarians in recent years because currently we only focus on the people that suffer,” he added. Delivering weapons to Ukraine would “distance Hungary from peace … delivering weapons brings trouble on the head of those involved, especially if they are neighbours of the country at war”, he said. Orbán said that “Transcarpathia has come within striking range” because someone is delivering or planning to deliver weapons and the Russians will target the transport junctions where such trans-shipments travel.
Orbán said that he planned to present members of his new, “significantly reshuffled” government between May 20 and 30. He said considerable changes were planned, “reflecting the many considerable changes in the world”. Christian Democrat, nationally minded governments usually start work by assessing the challenges of the upcoming four years, Orbán said. Protection against migration pressure must be boosted, he said. “The [coronavirus] pandemic has not disappeared” and there is a war going on, he added. “We must form a government that is able to protect Hungary,” he said.