“We are cleverer in the procurement of gas on our own than we would be if we waited for others,” the Prime Minister said, explaining why Hungary is not taking part in any common EU procurement. The country would only be worse-off if we joined the common process, and so he supported the idea of voluntary participation in the scheme, he said.
The Prime Minister also criticised the plan of an EU solidarity mechanism. He stressed that Hungary does not support the idea that, once the country has taken care of its gas supply for the whole year, it should share its gas reserves with countries that were unable to do so due to the fact that they supported the sanctions against Russia.
He took the view that regarding gas prices, there is only a temporary respite which is owing to the fact that the bulk of the gas consumed by Europe was accumulated in storage in the summer. However, when the previously stored quantities are consumed in the winter, we must expect to see prices rising again, he added.
Hungary concluded long-term agreements with the Russians which guarantee its gas supply, he confirmed, adding that the Nord Stream pipelines “were destroyed with terrorist attacks,” but the pipeline coming from the South via Turkey is still operational, and Hungary will not allow this pipeline to be destroyed by anyone. He indicated that the price of the gas coming from Russia, too, is tied to the prices quoted on the European exchange, and therefore if prices in Europe are higher, that automatically pushes up the price of the gas consumed in Hungary as well.
The Prime Minister criticised the sanctions introduced against Russia. He took the view that today people in the whole of Europe are paying “a sanctions surcharge.” In his view, Hungary is making every effort to remove itself from the consequences of the poor decisions, and most of the time we succeed; however, as we are on a single market with all the European countries, if the situation deteriorates over there, that will also have an impact on Hungary. “This is why we are against the sanctions,” he laid down.
He recalled that the sanctions were originally about the swift conclusion of the war and about punishing Russia for starting the war. “We devised a plan to dig a hole for the Russians so that they fall into it, but then we fell into that hole,” he said. In his opinion, the EU is now saying that “we should continue digging,” while the Hungarians advocate for “trying to climb out of it.” These two positions clash at every EU summit, he observed.
According to the Prime Minister, the national consultation is also important to make everyone realise that everyone is in danger. He said the sanctions are to a large extent responsible for the high prices. He stressed that the government “is not idly watching” the ever-higher prices, its goal is to bring inflation down to a single-digit rate in Hungary by the end of 2023.
He added that this is why they will decide in the coming weeks to add ever further items to the list of products with centrally regulated prices.
He also said they will fix the interest rates of loans made available to businesses at around 7.7 to 7.8 per cent. The costs associated with this measure will be covered by the banks, he added.
It is not good to interfere with the complex system of the economy, but certain crisis situations call for this, he observed.
In the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the Prime Minister said he expects voices calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks to become ever louder in Europe, adding that “sober people live” in Hungary, over here this was the starting point as a matter of course.
He said at last week’s EU summit, “everyone was more nervous than normal” as tensions are rising in every country. He took the view that sooner or later common sense would prevail; a war can only be brought to an end if the warring parties come to an agreement. Bringing the war to one outcome or another would mean that fighting would continue for years more.
The Prime Minister indicated that there were three main items of bills that the West supporting the war should foot: in addition to the war, the cost of reconstruction – in the context of which they hear about “unforeseeably large figures” – plus the funds necessary for the day-to-day functioning of Ukraine as already before the war, the neighbouring country was unable to produce “as much money as the lives of the Ukrainian people cost.”
This is an enormous amount of money, every month, the Ukrainian state would need EUR 5 billion to not collapse, and the question is who will give them that money, he stressed, indicating that there are ongoing consultations about how to divide the burden between Europe and America, and if Europe does want to undertake a share of the burden, how that should be distributed among the Member States, and whether everyone wants at all to take part in such a financial assistance scheme or not.
He emphasised that Hungary itself will have to decide whether it wants to take part in that scheme. “Do we have money to give the Ukrainians, and if we do, in what form do we want to give it to them: together with the others or separately, as a donation or as a loan?” he listed. He took the view that he will see more clearly on this issue during the talks to be held in the European Union in the coming two to three months, and that Hungary is facing difficult decisions.