The weekend in brief: Hungary on the war in Ukraine

Here’s a summary of key statements made by Hungarian government officials during the weekend on the Ukraine-Russia war.

PM Orbán at farmers’ congress: The most important thing is to keep Hungary out of this war

The most important thing is for Hungary to stay out of the war, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Saturday at the congress of the Hungarian Association of Farmers' Groups and Cooperatives (MAGOSZ) and the National Chamber of Agriculture (NAK).

"We condemn the war, especially that it is here in our neighborhood; we say no to violence, we stand together with our allies, and all this is important, but the most important thing is that Hungary should stay out of this war conflict," PM Orbán said.

The prime minister said it was important that the government take decisions now and in the coming months to prevent "the price of war being paid by Hungarians.”

“We are not only interested in peace as soon as possible and in regaining part of our markets, which have been shrunk by the war, with our hearts but also with our pockets,” Prime Minister Orbán said.

On the issue of sanctions, the PM said it must be ensured that the energy sector is left out of the sanctions policy. He said that expensive energy was already causing problems, but worse than that, if there was no energy, then the economy or a certain segment of it would grind to a halt.

“While Hungarian agricultural and food exports to Russia and Ukraine together account for less than 5 percent of agricultural exports, which means that exposure in this area is manageable, the issue of imports is more difficult,” PM Orbán said, adding that Russia accounts for 7 percent of raw material imports and Ukraine for 8.4 percent.

He also spoke about the impact of the rise in energy prices on the price of goods and raw materials coming from abroad, but also the need to be alert to exchange rate changes. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, central European currencies have been "decimated," and the country can only partially escape the impact of this.


FM Szijjártó: Hungary’s energy supply is uninterrupted, on schedule and in accordance with the contracts concluded

10 million cubic meters of natural gas are arriving daily in Hungary from the south via the Turkey-Bulgaria-Serbia route, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said on Facebook on Sunday.

Péter Szijjártó, who had a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu on the absolute necessity of maintaining gas supplies, said that “while Hungary is interested in maintaining European unity, we cannot allow the price of war to be paid by the Hungarian people.”

“Therefore, we will definitely avoid sanctioning energy supply, and (…) fortunately many of us in the European Union share this position,” he added.

He stressed that in these times of war in Ukraine, “our most important duty is to guarantee the security of our country,” adding that to this end, “we are resisting the pressure and the demands of the opposition and will not send troops or weapons to Ukraine; nor will we allow the transit of lethal weapons through our territory.”

He also underlined that at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday, “we adopted a position in Hungary’s interest: Everything must be done to prevent a direct clash between NATO and Russia.”


Soltész: HUF 540 million received so far through the Bridge for Transcarpathia aid program

As of Sunday morning, HUF 540 million had been pledged through the government’s Bridge for Transcarpathia aid program following the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the state secretary for church and state relations said.

Miklós Soltész said that charitable organizations have so far provided assistance to more than 59,000 people in border settlements and at Budapest railway stations, amounting to some HUF 200 million.

He also noted that the government had earmarked HUF 600 million in a first step and then a further HUF 1.3 billion to provide direct assistance to Transcarpathia and even beyond.

He called on the Hungarian Left “not to play with fire, not to want to send arms supplies and soldiers, and not to drag Hungarians into the war, as there is already enough tragedy in Ukraine.”


Government Spokesperson: Hungary leaves no one without help

Hungary will not leave anyone without help, government spokeswoman Alexandra Szentkirályi said in Astei (Asztély) on Sunday during her visit to the border-crossing point to see firsthand how the help center there operates.

The government spokeswoman visited the 24-hour refugee help center on the Ukrainian side of the border with László Lehel, President and CEO of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) and János Gerevich, head of the organization's Berehove (Beregszász) office.

She stressed that the help center is constantly being improved, and the representatives of the aid organization are asking the refugees queuing on the Ukrainian side of the border what they need in Hungary so that they can provide concrete assistance as quickly as possible.

She also emphasized that the border police are prepared for any eventuality, aid agencies are present everywhere, and there is no shortage of volunteers. In addition, the government has given an extra HUF 3 billion to the six charities it is working closely with to help tackle the humanitarian crisis. “Hungary helps everyone, we are prepared to help everyone, no one is left without help,” she said.

The government spokesperson also visited several other assistance points in other border settlements.

Government to provide HUF 3 billion in grants to Charity Council organizations

The government will provide HUF 3 billion in funding to members of the Charity Council to mitigate and manage the effects of the humanitarian disaster directly affecting Hungary, government spokesperson Alexandra Szentkirályi announced in Beregsurány on Saturday.

She said the Catholic Charity, the Hungarian Reformed Charity, the Hungarian Maltese Charity, the Hungarian Interchurch Aid, the Baptist Charity and the Hungarian Red Cross will each receive HUF 500 million.

Szentkirályi also noted that government agencies, the police, disaster management, local governments, aid organizations and civilians have so far shown outstanding strength, and this will be needed in the coming days or weeks as well. They can count on the government in their work, to help reach out to those in need with the greatest possible assistance, she said.

She added that the largest-ever aid shipment worth HUF 600 million to Transcarpathia has recently been sent and that the Hungary Helps program will also provide assistance for charitable work.

Disaster management: EU ventilators arrive in Ukraine with Hungarian assistance

The disaster management group has delivered 200 ventilators from the European Union's Hungarian stockpile to war-torn Ukraine, the group’s communications service told MTI on Saturday.

A total of 200 ventilators, 250 patient monitors, 25 central monitors and 100 infusion pumps from the rescEU stock stored in the central warehouse of the disaster management unit were delivered to Záhony; the five truckloads of aid were worth EUR 3.7 million, the statement said.

Ministry of Agriculture: Domestic food supply must be protected

The war has created an exceptional situation for the European and Hungarian food economy, as Ukraine is the fourth-largest food supplier to the EU. The Hungarian government has therefore taken a responsible decision to maintain the security of domestic supplies, the minister of agriculture said.

István Nagy said that grain and feed prices have risen radically due to Ukrainian products falling out of the market; the fear of shortages has also led to a significant increase in demand for Hungarian agricultural products from abroad.

The minister stressed the need to protect Hungarian farmers and Hungarian families from economic and supply problems, which is the main task of the government. Therefore, the government has decided that by May 15, 2022, any person or company planning to export wheat, rye, barley, oats, maize, soybeans and sunflowers from Hungary to foreign countries must notify the National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) in advance, the minister said.

If the export of the notified agricultural product would jeopardize the security of the domestic supply, the state may exercise its right of pre-emption (purchase option) and will inform the notifier within 30 days of its intention to exercise this right. The notification obligation does not apply to exports in transit from Hungary and humanitarian aid.