FM: EU sanctions policy is a total failure

Minister Szijjártó blamed the EU’s sanctions for “sky high” inflation, bigger utility bills and higher gas and food prices, putting the continent’s economy into a recession.

During an interview with public radio broadcast on Sunday, Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said European Union sanctions against Russia have neither “forced Russia to its knees” nor brought peace any closer, but they have harmed Europe. He called the sanctions policy “a total failure”.

Speaking on Kossuth Radio, Minister Szijjártó blamed the EU’s sanctions for “sky high” inflation, bigger utility bills and higher gas and food prices, putting the continent’s economy into a recession. He noted that Brussels had “promised” at negotiations for the first round of sanctions that the punitive measures would drain Russia and advance efforts to achieve peace. “This was a complete failure as it is now clearly apparent that those sanctions hurt Europe much more than they did Russia while doing enormous damage to the EU economy,” he said. Minister Szijjártó said that gas prices had started to rise after the sanctions were cleared and some European politicians and officials started to talk about extending the sanctions to gas. “The market priced that in, causing gas prices to skyrocket,” he added.

He said an agreement reached with EU leaders at a meeting in New York days earlier on the eighth package of sanctions was a “move in the wrong direction”, but stressed that the meeting had failed to produce even a proposal, say nothing about a final decision. “We will not approve any decision that harms Hungary’s national interests. The security of our energy supply remains a red line. Any sanction that puts our energy supply at risk is unacceptable for us,” he said. Minister Szijjártó noted that he had discussed the security of Hungary’s energy supply and the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, at a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I place value in dialogue, in negotiations, but it appears that not everybody shares this view,” he said, adding that he was the only EU foreign minister to meet with Lavrov. He said it was “unfortunate” that the UN General Assembly failed to produce negotiations or talks that could have brought the war in Ukraine closer to an end. “I’m very disappointed. I don’t understand those Western colleagues of mine who think that dialogue is a bad idea. I think that if we close communication channels, diplomatic channels, we give up and lose the hope that there will be an end to this war,” he added.

He said Russia’s Gazprom is delivering a daily 5.8 million cubic metres of gas to Hungary in addition to volumes stipulated in the country’s long-term contract. Hungary’s reserves now contain enough gas to cover 41% of annual consumption, well over the comparative rate of 23% for Europe as a whole, he added. With the issue of the implementation licence for the construction of two more blocks at the Paks nuclear power plant, Minister Szijjártó said work on the Paks II project could be “stepped up”, adding that construction could start in the autumn of next year, allowing the blocks to be finished by 2030. Responding to the suggestion that the United States is benefitting from the EU’s sanctions policy, Szijjártó said “the American economy is a winner because of these sanctions, without a doubt”. While the EU slips into recession, the US economy, bolstered by cheap energy prices, among other factors, is becoming more competitive, he added. “I don’t know who can tug EU officials out of this extraordinarily unsuccessful and hypocritical policy, but one thing is for sure, these sanctions are harming Europe,” he said.

Photo credit: Facebook/Szijjártó Péter