Orbán: What the Ukrainians are asking us is to bring Hungary’s economy to a complete halt

March 28. 2022. – 10:43 AM


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On Sunday morning, Viktor Orbán started the day at state-owned Kossuth radio, where – among others – he spoke about the Russian-Ukrainian war, the sanctions against Russia, as well as the criticism he had received from the Ukrainians. Translation by Andrea Horváth Kávai

The host asked him what the trouble is with the Polish idea of a peace mission, to which Orbán answered: the trouble is that there is no peace. For a peacekeeping mission to be sent somewhere, there should at least be a ceasefire in effect. At this point, the most that could be done in Ukraine would be to send a peacebuilding force, but that would mean taking part in the fighting, which nobody wants to do – he said.

In regards to the no-fly zone, he commented that although this is an intelligent term, and it sounds similar to locking the door to a room (both terms use the Hungarian word “zár” which means “to lock”) it is far from the same. We are talking about weapons here, about air warfare. If this were to be implemented, it would mean forcing all planes to the ground – mostly by shooting them down. And with that, there would be a war within the war – an air war.

When asked about the extension of the sanctions to the energy sector, Orbán said that Austria and Germany are in a similar situation like us: if there was no Russian gas and oil coming, their economies would stop.

“It is not about what the Ukrainians are saying, that Hungary should really be willing to pay 2-3 forints more for gas or oil, and instead of Russia we should simply get it somewhere else. No, the thing is: we either have gas, or we don’t. Because these come to Hungary through pipes. And there either IS gas coming through the pipe, or there isn’t. The option of it coming for a bit higher price doesn’t exist” – he said, and then added:

“The question for Hungary isn’t whether we are willing to pay a bit more for energy, and thus help Ukraine – if that were possible, we would do it. The question is: whether anything will come in those pipes at all.”

Regarding the oil supply, he said that if we were to get our oil elsewhere, it would take many years of work to rebuild the refineries in Hungary – but so far nobody has told us where else we could get this oil from.

If we did what the Ukrainians are asking us to do, then 61% of the oil used in Hungary would disappear. This would mean there would be no fuel in the country. It’s the same with gas. If there was no gas coming, 85% of all the gas that the country uses would not be available. If there was no oil and gas, Hungary’s economy would stop: we would have to close down factories, and there would be mass unemployment – Orbán continued listing.

“What the Ukrainians are asking us to do is essentially to stop the entire Hungarian economy, to lose years of development again, and for our economy’s performance to fall back to the level where it was 8-10, or who knows how many years ago”.

Orbán continued by saying: “I am doing everything possible to help the people of Ukraine, as they were attacked, they are in trouble. We are not bringing up the way they have treated our minorities in the past – in a dramatic situation like this, that is secondary. We won’t forget it, but it is secondary at this time. We are doing all we can to help, but they really can’t expect us to bring ourselves to ruin for their sake.”

When Volodimir Zelensky addressed the European Council in a video call, he thanked the EU member states for their support, but he spent an especially long time addressing Hungary. Orbán said that in reality, the Ukrainian president addressed each country that doesn’t agree with him separately (the Germans too), but understandably, the Hungarian media is focusing on just the comments about Hungary.

“He attacked everyone who – according to his opinion – isn’t committed enough to the cause of Ukraine” – he said.

The host at Kossuth radio then tried to solve the puzzle, and added that only a professional actor can look in the camera the way the Ukrainian president did, and then asked Orbán whether he felt like he was part of a staged scene.

“I feel that way all the time – a big part of European politics is made up of staged scenes. I studied law, and I am using the knowledge I gathered from that. An actor lives and works with the knowledge they gathered from that. But there's nothing extraordinary about that, and I don't think it's unreasonable for him to speak so sharply either." – said Orbán. (Note: Interestingly enough, the Ukrainian president also graduated from university with a law degree, just like the Hungarian prime minister.)

In Orbán’s opinion, what the Ukrainian president said is understandable: we are at war, we requested to join NATO, we applied for EU membership. Why aren’t you helping us, why don’t you come here and fight with us, why are there no Hungarian or American or Polish soldiers here? Why are you letting Russia defeat us?

The host did not let off so easily, commenting that it would have still been nice if the Polish president had said something about the fact that we took in half a million Ukrainian refugees. To this, Orbán responded with: “Of course, that would have been nice, but in such dramatic circumstances, the lack of nuance is perhaps excusable.”

According to Orbán, the real decision to be made here is whether we are to act according to the Ukrainian viewpoint, or whether we should take a look and figure out a way to help them without harming Hungarian interests.

“The thinking that morally downgrades the Hungarian position is wrong and harmful. The Hungarian position is the morally correct one. We will give the Ukrainians all we can – perhaps even helping beyond our means, but we will not satisfy any demand that would destroy our national community, even biologically by killing soldiers, or anything that would destroy Hungary's economy."

- relayed Orbán the Hungarian government’s point of view.

To the spontaneous question from the public media on whether the Hungarian government is being attacked now because we are going to have elections or because there are big geopolitical changes and everyone is trying to position themselves, Orbán responded by saying that “We are in the period when Europe is being redressed.” He said that the war has also changed Europe’s security and economic situation – even at the EU summit, next to the war, the other most important subject discussed was that of energy supplies. In his opinion, however, the election campaign is also a factor in all the attacks, as the Hungarian elections and referendum are going to decide things for our country, which will have consequences for all of Europe.

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