Any further action against Moscow would only hurt the bloc itself, the adviser said
Any new sanctions against Moscow would only harm the EU economy without significant impact on Russia, a senior Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Reuters on Thursday.
Brussels should stop targeting Moscow with new restrictions and focus on alternative means of achieving peace in Ukraine, such as negotiations, Balazs Orban said.
The official, who is not related to the Hungarian prime minister, was speaking on the sidelines of the EU summit which granted Ukraine candidate status. He argued that restrictions already imposed on Russia by the bloc had failed to change Moscow’s course on Ukraine or halt its ongoing military operation. Meanwhile, the EU has seen increases in fuel and food prices.
“At the end of the day, Europe will be on the losing side of this war because of economic problems. Our recommendation would be that we should stop the sanctioning process,” Orban said. “Right now, what we are experiencing is that the more sanctions we accept, the worse off we are. And the Russians? Yes, it hurts them too, but they survive. And what is even worse, they are proceeding in Ukraine,” he added.
The strategy pursued by the EU over the past four months has yielded few results, argued the aide, adding that “If it continues like this, according to a reasonable thought, it will end badly for Europe.” The bloc should rethink its strategy and instead focus on diplomatic means, he said. “We have to think of something. Negotiations, ceasefire, peace. Diplomacy. This is our solution.
Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy and has one of the closest relations with Moscow among EU member states, has repeatedly warned of the potentially dire consequences of anti-Russian sanctions for the block.
On June 10, Viktor Orban declared that any potential gas embargo “will ruin the whole European economy”. The EU has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia for its military operation in Ukraine. Several rounds of sanctions have included restrictions on Russia’s banking and financial sectors, including a freeze on Russian central bank reserves, as well as personal restrictions on Russian officials and businessmen considered close to the Kremlin. Russian banks have also been disconnected from the SWIFT messaging system.
In May, the EU also agreed to a partial embargo on Russian oil – the measure Hungary has opposed for weeks. Budapest was eventually among the nations to benefit from a waiver.
Hungary itself has taken a more nuanced position on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While opposing the use of force, he called for negotiations rather than sanctions. At the beginning of June, Orban said he was surprised that there were so few “voice for peace” within the bloc, adding that the war ultimately benefits no one.