Sanctions are withdrawing EUR 10 billion from the Hungarian economy
18. 11. 2022.
The policy of sanctions is not a matter of principle as due to it energy prices have gone through the roof, and this results in an annual deficit of EUR 10 billion in the Hungarian economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated at the meeting of the Hungarian Permanent Conference (Máért) held on Friday in Budapest.

The Prime Minister said of this EUR 6 billion has to be “swallowed” by the economy, while the remaining EUR 4 billion, the equivalent of some HUF 1,600 billion is a burden for the central budget.

He stressed that this is the sum that the country is unable to use for social purposes, including pay rises and tax reductions.

From this point of view, the Hungarian anti-sanctions policy does not appear excessive, Mr Orbán emphasised.

At the event, the Prime Minister said: today we have more allies and more friends on the international scene than we had earlier, Mr Orbán pointed out at the meeting of the Hungarian Permanent Conference held on Friday in Budapest.

The Prime Minister highlighted that in Hungary a national, Christian government is in office, and it is relevant what types of governments are in place in the potential partner countries as this determines the scope for cooperation.

It is always easier for the Hungarian government, Hungary and Hungarians beyond the borders if “governments similar to us – resting on national and Christian foundations – are in a majority or if such governments – other than ourselves – continue to exist in Europe at all,” and recent political developments have been of help in this regard, he explained.

Photo: Zoltán Fischer/Prime Minister’s Press Office

He stressed that the strategic thinking, the plan that by appropriately organising Central Europe, the peoples of Central Europe should become a major European factor and their influence should not be determined by the relations they maintain with states larger than themselves is today further away from reality than it was before.

The Prime Minister recalled that the attendees of the conference last met in person in 2019, and are today all stronger than they were when they last saw each other. The most important question of 2019 was whether it is right to move away from the foundations of ethnically homogeneous Hungarian representation towards the foundations of ethnically mixed Hungarian representation, he said.

He took the view that there were periods when they had differing opinions on this matter, but today it seems that all Hungarian communities clearly answer this question by stating that political structures organised on ethnically homogeneous grounds are better.

He pointed out: also back in 2019 he said that observing the development of the European economy, Central Europe will become Europe’s economic engine, and the years that have passed since have confirmed this. At the time, they also spoke about the fact that in the future the Balkans will hold the key for European security, and while this is seemingly overridden by the war for the time being, there is a major power rivalry under way in the Balkans, he stated.

He highlighted that it is in Hungary’s best interest that the countries in the region, Serbia in particular, should become a part of the EU in order to make way for the creation of a safe zone there.

Regarding the Visegrád Four (V4), Mr Orbán said also back in 2019 they stressed the importance of the V4 and they are important today as well, but the dynamic has changed. “Doubts have emerged on the part of the Czechs and the Slovaks, and opinions have been voiced which make the V4 less of a priority in their own foreign policies,” he said.

He is of the opinion that “cooperation with the Polish is not easy either” because while there remains agreement on the fundamental objectives of the V4, the Russo-Ukrainian war has transformed this relationship, it has made it more complex despite the fact that both countries have a vested interest in “Russia not posing a threat to the region,” and in there being a sovereign state between Russia and Central Europe, he pointed out.

According to the Prime Minister, they agree with Poland on the goals, but not on the means. Hungary supports a ceasefire, peace talks and a European security settlement in which Russia has a designated place, “a place which is not disadvantageous and not dangerous for us”.

He said they are also building new relations “within unusual dimensions and frameworks,” including the Serbian-Austrian-Hungarian cooperation which – it is to be hoped – “will also find lasting structures”.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the fact that the war is a station of the process that is transforming the power system of the entire world and fits into a bigger trend. Already the financial crisis as well as the migration crisis were important stations in this overarching process of rearrangement, he pointed out.

He said there are changes under way in the world, as a result of which the goods, resources and profits generated by the economy of the world are being distributed differently to what we were used to earlier. Normally, this is a slow process, but today it is taking place in much less time, it is much more intensive than it was earlier, he said.

He highlighted that the question is whether this rearrangement can take place without wars or will necessarily bring about conflicts.

If there is a war in your neighbourhood, you yourself are not safe either, the Prime Minister said, stressing that it is a strategic issue for Hungary to have peace restored in our neighbourhood within the shortest possible time.

War claims human lives, and also has economic effects, the Prime Minister pointed out.

The Prime Minister said it is important that what happened three days ago in Poland – where a missile explosion claimed lives – should not become a part of our day-to-day experience.

He said it is not a gratifying role for him to speak about the importance of a ceasefire and peace talks as the only one in Europe, but this is a strategic interest for Hungary for which it is worth undertaking every conflict, including humiliating comments at times.

He recalled that already the conflict in Crimea in 2014 could have escalated into a war, but back then it remained a local one, thanks to the fact that the German-French axis was able to settle the issue. But this time those who had a vested interest in the localisation of the conflict, including Hungary, were not strong enough.

He stated: the later peace will be restored the higher the price of peace will be.

Regarding the policy of sanctions, he said this is not a matter of principle as due to the misguided policy of sanctions, energy prices have gone through the roof, and this results in an annual deficit of EUR 10 billion in the Hungarian economy, Mr Orbán said, adding that there is no such growth that could compensate for this.

The Prime Minister explained that of this deficit, the economy must “swallow” EUR 6 billion, while the remaining EUR 4 billion, the equivalent of some HUF 1,600 billion will have to be financed from the budget.

He stressed that this is the sum that the country is unable to spend on social purposes, including pay rises, tax reductions and the extension of the range of family grants.

From this point of view, the Hungarian rhetoric that demands a review of the sanctions does not appear excessive, Mr Orbán stressed.

He said if the sanctions policy changed, the price of energy could be  halved.

He recalled that at the time of the introduction of the sanctions, the plan was “to dig a hole that the Russians will fall into” and this will undermine their military capabilities.

However, the situation has never before been as escalated as it is today, all this has led to the prolongation of the war, and this is why Hungary is suspicious about the sanctions, the Prime Minister continued.

Photo: Zoltán Fischer/Prime Minister’s Press Office

He said the badly-planned sanctions must be revised, they must reconsider which ones should be maintained and which ones should be abandoned.

He also said the beneficiaries of the war are not necessarily those who started it. Among the beneficiaries he mentioned the United States and China.

“We are losers because there is no European leadership,” he said. We do not know who the dominant players and forces are, and so the continent is unable to enforce its interests, he explained.

In his view, with each passing day Europe is becoming weaker, the Americans are making ever further gains and the Chinese are becoming stronger.

He said in this situation Hungary must find its own “foreign policy path”. In his opinion, we must expect to see blocs developing in the world, something which – based on historical experiences – has only ever harmed Hungary, and therefore, it has no interest in it.

Mr Orbán took stock of the country’s strengths, an exercise which in his opinion requires precise self-awareness. In this regard, he suggested that Hungary should not adopt the European post-national approach, should remain within national boundaries and should conclude its best interests on that basis because these boundaries are “close to our hearts” and this is what people know.

As Hungary’s first strength, he mentioned that “when in trouble, Hungarians combine forces,” the crises of recent years – the financial crisis, the migrant crisis and the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic – have testified to this. Also in times of trouble, it is possible to repair the flaws of ill-operating systems, he said, mentioning energy policy as an example in which they will implement major changes.

As the second strength, he said the country always looks upon the national interest as the top priority. He said Hungary condemns the Russian aggression and is helping the Ukrainian people, but is not prepared to place Ukraine’s interests before its own.

In his view, “helping does not in any way benefit Hungary,” Hungary is helping the Ukrainians because they are in trouble.

Mr Orbán said Hungary will not accept the plan for the Member States of the European Union to borrow collectively in the interest of helping Ukraine. He suggested that Member States of the EU should look into how much money they want to provide towards the continued functioning of the Ukrainian state and should divide that fairly and proportionately among themselves.

Hungary would provide this sum – HUF 60 to 70 billion annually – from its national budget within the framework of a bilateral agreement concluded with Ukraine, he pointed out.

According to the Prime Minister, the grant he suggests does not fundamentally violate Hungarian national interests, even if that sum will be sorely missed in the Hungarian budget.

He took the view that if Hungary consents to collective borrowing, the EU will irrevocably become a debt community.

He mentioned as a further strength that Hungary is realist, and that Hungarians see an opportunity in everything; he described the latter as Hungarian inventiveness.

Mr Orbán said he looks upon the troubles facing the country with enormous optimism, sees a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in them; in his view, the crisis should be seen as an opportunity.

He pointed out that if they manoeuvre well in the crisis, the country could climb higher in the competitiveness rankings, and therefore, they are not prepared to abandon Russian relations.

He suggested that Hungary forge closer cooperation with the neighbouring countries. In a moment of crisis, these relations, too, could be improved further, he argued.

Photo: Zoltán Fischer/Prime Minister’s Press Office

Regarding EU funds, the Prime Minister stated: the recovery fund set up due to the COVID crisis is not comprised of the contributions of the individual countries, but is a collective loan, on the distribution of which the Member States agreed in advance. Meaning that this money “must be given” to us, its disbursement can only be delayed, he said. However, the EU has not even signed the relevant agreement with Hungary, the only country subjected to this treatment, he said, adding that this could take place in the coming days.

In the context of the EU financial grants for the period between 2021-2027, he said Hungary has yet to come an agreement on this, but even if an agreement is signed, we cannot know for certain whether they will disburse the funds or not, or which items they may decide to suspend. The net sum of the funds in question is the equivalent of some HUF 800 billion annually, while the Hungarian GDP amounts to HUF 62,000 billion, he explained, demonstrating the impact this sum has on the national economy.

He said one can play political games, but this is not an actual tool for blackmail in the EU’s hands. “We cannot be cornered,” those who want to negotiate in this manner will never achieve their goal, he laid down.

He described the process as impertinent and damaging, and stated that in the absence of these funds, the Hungarian economy can also finance its “green transition” programme from the world market, including from Chinese credit.

He also said the government does not surrender its national strategic goals even in times of crisis. The range of family grants will be extended, jobs are equally important for the government, as is the issue of the unification of the nation, he stressed.

He promised the leaders of Hungarian communities beyond the borders that while new large investments are not likely to be launched in the coming year or two, he wants to negotiate with them not about what cannot be realised, but rather about what can be realised and how.

In his welcome address, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén highlighted that the incumbent government is a national one for which the Hungarian state is the self-expression of the Hungarian nation, and its meaning and purpose are the survival of the Hungarian nation and the improvement of the living standards of the Hungarian people. The nation can only survive if each constituent part of it survives, he laid down.

He took the view that this requires a strong Hungary which provides a home front politically, economically and diplomatically, a constitutional environment, a set of institutions, of which the Hungarian Permanent Conference is now a part, the preservation of our identity, the unification of the nation in a public law sense, and for the political organisations and parties of the Hungarian community to play a dominant role in the countries surrounding us. All of this combined amounts to a national, patriotic policy, he pointed out.