PM Orbán notes serious economic problems with Ukraine’s EU accession

Asked about “bad relations between Hungary and Ukraine” over the past years, the prime minister said he had rethought that question several times and expressed his firm position that Hungary bore no responsibility for that.

In connection with Ukraine’s EU accession, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán noted serious economic problems that had already emerged in two areas. One, he said, was the damage caused by Ukrainian grain to farmers and hauliers in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The other, he said, was the absence of any preliminary studies on the impact Ukraine’s future membership could have on French, German or Hungarian farmers, small entrepreneurs, retailers, hauliers and member states’ economies in general.

In the interview with publisher Mediaworks, the prime minister said that although EU integration is a long procedure, all member states have the possibility “around seventy times” to either slow down or stop it, but the decision at last week’s summit in Brussels “means that 26 countries want Ukraine to become an EU member”. He said basic questions had not been answered because “many thought that the decision was just a political gesture, of a geopolitical nature”. Asked whether he was concerned that his supporters “were completely fed up with the EU”, the prime minister said he “accepted that as a natural fact”. “I myself am fed up with Brussels,” he said, adding that “the question is however what conclusions are drawn from the situation”. PM Orbán said the conclusion he drew was this: “let’s try to go deeper, take positions, gather allies and fix the European Union”. “Being angry is not enough, Brussels must be conquered,” he said. Put to him whether financially supporting Ukraine would be the right decision considering that it is an important neighbor, a country attacked by Russia and fighting for its survival, PM Orbán said it was a legitimate question which he said was one to be considered by Hungary’s parliament. “All we can say today is that any member state wanting to give Ukraine money should do so outside the EU budget and not by giving out our [Hungary’s] money.”

Asked about “bad relations between Hungary and Ukraine” over the past years, the prime minister said he had rethought that question several times and expressed his firm position that Hungary bore no responsibility for that. He attributed the deterioration of bilateral relations to Ukraine scrapping in 2015 the law that guaranteed the rights of the country’s Hungarian community to exist as a national minority. The rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians to their culture, education in Hungarian and the broader use of their mother tongue were scrapped eight years ago, Orbán said, calling on Ukraine to restore those rights which he said would be a starting point for improving bilateral ties. Asked about the recent agreement reached by the European Parliament and the European Commission on the EU’s new migration and asylum pact, the prime minister said that an earlier given word on taking decisions only with a unanimous vote had been broken and the position of Hungary and Poland ignored. Orbán called it “a bad pact”, arguing that the only solution in the issue of migration was to process asylum requests before an applicant enters EU territory. Hungarian law, over which Brussels is suing the country, stipulates this rule, he said. Orbán said his efforts over the past eight years to make other member states understand the concept had failed. “They in fact want, as they say, to manage, not stop migration,” said Orbán. He said that in the legal procedure, Hungary will face for “not executing what Brussels says” Hungary “will prove that the EU rule for allowing in people whose application had not been processed in advance, and requiring us to take over migrants already accepted in by other member states goes against the Hungarian basic law”.

Speaking about Hungary’s economy, Orbán said its performance this year had to be assessed in light of events over the past four years which included the coronavirus pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine causing energy prices to soar. He said that as a result of the EC’s policy of sanctions, inflation also skyrocketed. Orbán said that since the outbreak of Covid in spring 2020, Hungary’s goal was to keep its economy going. “We have achieved that goal,” the prime minister said, adding that despite the difficulties, Hungary was now in a position to be in a lot better situation with good prospects for 2024. PM Orbán said “the nature of 2024 will be different than that of the previous years”. In 2023 the goal was to reduce price increases to below ten percent which he said had been achieved. The prime minister said it was even possible that inflation would fall to seven percent by the end of the year and could be around five percent in 2024. “In 2023 we fought to maintain and protect what we had achieved before, but in 2024 we will work for Hungary to move forward, to be in a better shape, and put families once again in the centre,” he said. Orbán said he believed that “the past couple of years in which we have overcome various crises and mastered dangers have strengthened our confidence and self-esteem”. “We are a talented, hardworking nation capable of overcoming hardships, a community that never gives up the hope even in the most difficult times that better times are to come,” the prime minister said.