Any further measures against Moscow would only hurt the bloc itself, the adviser said
Any further sanctions on Moscow would only hurt the EU economy without significantly impacting Russia, a senior aide to 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 Hungary’s prime minister, was speaking on the sidelines of the EU summit that granted Ukraine candidate status. He argued that the restrictions already imposed on Russia by the bloc had failed to change Moscow’s course on Ukraine or stop its ongoing military operation. Meanwhile, the EU has witnessed fuel and food price hikes.
“At the end of the day, Europe will be on the losing side of this war because of the economic problems. Our recommendation would be that we should stop the sanction process,” Orban said. “Right now, what we experience is that the more sanctions we accept, the worse shape we are in. And the Russians? Yes, it hurts them as well, but they survive. And what is even worse, they proceed in Ukraine,” he added.
The strategy pursued by the EU for the past four months has yielded few results, the aide argued, adding that “if it continues like this, according to reasonable thinking, it will end up in a bad way for Europe.” The bloc should rethink its strategy and focus on diplomatic means instead, he said. “We have to think about something. Negotiations, ceasefire, peace. Diplomacy. That’s our solution.”
Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy and has one of the closest relationships with Moscow of the EU member states, has repeatedly warned about the potentially grim consequences of anti-Russian sanctions for the bloc.
On June 10, Viktor Orban said any potential gas embargo “will ruin the whole European economy.” The EU has introduced sweeping sanctions on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine. Several rounds of sanctions have featured restrictions targeting the Russian banking and finance 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 were also disconnected from the SWIFT messaging system.
In May, the EU also agreed on a partial embargo on Russian oil – the measure Hungary had opposed for weeks. Budapest was eventually among the nations given a waiver.
Hungary itself has meanwhile taken a more nuanced stance on the Russian conflict with Ukraine. While opposing the use of force, it has called for negotiations instead of sanctions. In early June, Orban said he was surprised there were so few “voices for peace” within the bloc, adding that war ultimately benefits no one.