Politico: Orbán threatening with veto unless 4 individuals removed from sanctions list

February 22. 2023. – 03:41 PM



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Once again, Viktor Orbán is threatening to veto the extension of EU sanctions against Russia because he would like to see four people removed from the list of those sanctioned, Politico claimed in its newsletter Wednesday morning, citing three diplomats.

The newsletter does not say exactly who the Hungarian prime minister would like to have exempedt from the sanctions, but he did make a reference to this in his 18 February annual speech on the state of the nation. At that time he said, among other things:

"We will maintain our economic relations with Russia, and we advise the whole Western world to do so, because without a relationship there will be neither a ceasefire nor a peace negotiation.

It is for this reason that we do not agree to priests and church leaders being put on sanction lists; it is bad enough that this could happen to artists and sportsmen."

In May last year, the Hungarian government threatened to veto the sixth EU sanctions package if the punitive measures against Patriarch Kirill of Moscow were not removed. The Patriarch has consistently supported the invasion of Ukraine and has faithfully served Vladimir Putin's policies in the past. Since EU decisions require the consensus of the 27 member states, the Commission had to give in to Hungary's demand at the time, despite the reluctance of EU politicians.

At the government briefing on 9 February, Gergely Gulyás justified this by saying that "the government believes that punishing church leaders is not in the interest of peace". He added that in his view “it is worth looking at each individual on the sanctions list separately, because there is no collective guilt.”

Politico's article details the information reported in their early morning newsletter. The paper, citing diplomats, writes that at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Tuesday to discuss the 10th sanctions package, the Baltic states and Poland proposed extending the list of individuals subject to sanctions to include immediate family members and business associates of Russian oligarchs, but Hungary is opposed to the idea.

So far, the EU has sanctioned more than 1,400 individuals in connection with Russia's activities in Ukraine, and the draft documents suggest that the next sanctions package could add 96 names to the list. However, if they were to approve the inclusion of family members of oligarchs and individuals who benefit from their activities, the list could be extended by thousands of names.

According to Politico, the Hungarian government opposed the expansion of the list at Tuesday's meeting and even suggested removing four individuals from the existing list.

Under current EU rules, the sanctions must be extended every six months. Hungary is also opposed to the proposal – which is supported by all other Member States – that sanctions should have an automatic duration of 12 months instead of six. This would mean that instead of six months, the sanctions packages would only have to be reviewed annually, which would "give Budapest less opportunity to torpedo sanctions and derail EU decisions", the paper writes.

Even at this time, Hungary is using the extension review to exert pressure, insisting that four individuals be removed from the EU's existing sanctions list before agreeing to an extension.

According to Politico, the Hungarian government is mainly opposed to sanctioning individuals involved in the nuclear industry. An unnamed Hungarian official, on the other hand, said that the government's concern is only with the duration of the extension and not with the content of the list. Regarding the proposal submitted by the Baltic states and Poland, they said "it is not part of the 10th package".

The 10th sanctions package can only be adopted by the EU if all member states agree to it, so it can be vetoed by one country even if the other 26 Member States support it. Politico reports that the EU wants to adopt the 10th sanctions package before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Friday.

EU ambassadors are meeting again on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the details of the next sanctions package, including a review of the list of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian individuals sanctioned in previous packages.

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