Hungary’s government will not give up its commitment to peace or its national interests despite the “enormous pressure” concerning arms deliveries to Ukraine and more sanctions, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Brussels on Monday. The atmosphere in the EU remains combative, Szijjártó told a press conference on the sidelines of a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, according to a ministry statement, adding that unlike the Hungarian government, most member states believed that a military solution to the war in Ukraine was possible. Szijjártó said this posed the risk of a protracted conflict, but several member states believed that Ukraine was fighting for Europe or “in the name of Europe”. “We believe that this is not our war; we are in no way responsible for its outbreak, but we’re also paying the price for it … we continue to urge an end to the war and the start of peace talks,” the minister said.
Szijjártó said there was “enormous pressure” to approve another 500 million euro package for the European Peace Facility (EPF) as well as an eleventh sanctions package against Russia. “But in spite of the pressure, we will not give up our commitment to peace,” Szijjártó said. “We will not give up protecting the Transcarpathian Hungarian community and despite the pressure, we will not give up the representation of our national interests”. Szijjártó said that so far 5.7 billion euros from the EPF has been spent on financing weapons deliveries to Ukraine, and though Hungary believed this risked escalation, the government had not blocked the payments. But this time, he added, the government had made it clear that it will oppose further payments until Ukraine removes Hungary’s OTP Bank from its list of “international sponsors of war”. “The accusations against OTP are false and are not based on any sort of facts, therefore we demand that the Ukrainians remove OTP from the list of international sponsors of war,” he said.
Concerning the plans for the next sanctions package, Szijjártó said the EU should learn from the “failed sanctions” imposed so far, arguing that they “have hurt Europe more than they have Russia”, and the newest sanctions would cause even greater problems. Szijjártó said the new sanctions would make the export activities of European businesses outside Russia more difficult, hurting their competitiveness. He said it was also “dangerous and irrational” that the EU wanted to sanction eight Chinese companies as part of the latest package. Sanctions against Chinese companies would have a serious effect on EU-China relations, he said, adding that ruining economic cooperation with China would result in a serious loss for the bloc. He said that instead of conflict, the EU should strive for cooperation with China based on mutual respect and benefit. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said that several member states had again urged imposing sanctions on the nuclear industry, but the government was resisting such a move in the interest of guaranteeing energy security.
Concerning the situation of Transcarpathian Hungarians, Szijjártó said Hungary would only approve the advancement of Ukraine’s EU accession talks if Kyiv restored the rights of the ethnic Hungarian community. He said he had heard from a participant at the meeting that Ukraine was claiming that the Venice Commission had already approved the country’s minority law, but added that the body had yet to even adopt an opinion in the matter. “Ukrainian propaganda is working when it comes to the minority law,” Szijjártó said, adding that the reality would become clear in a few months when ethnic Hungarian schools would no longer be able to operate in their current form from Sept. 1.