Orban calls for new EU strategy on Ukraine, says sanctions have failed

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the European Union leaders’ summit, as EU leaders try to agree on Russian oil sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels , Belgium, May 30, 2022. REUTERS / Johanna Geron

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BUDAPEST, July 23 (Reuters) – The European Union needs a new strategy in the face of war in Ukraine because sanctions against Moscow have not worked, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

“A new strategy is needed, which should focus on peace talks and writing a good peace proposal…instead of winning the war,” Orban said in a speech in Romania.

Orban, re-elected for a fourth consecutive term in April, reiterated that Hungary – a member of NATO – would stay out of the war in neighboring Ukraine.

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He faces his toughest challenge since taking power in 2010, with double-digit inflation, a weak forint and EU funds still stuck amid a dispute with Brussels over democratic standards.

Orban has previously said that Hungary is unwilling to support EU embargoes or limitations on Russian gas imports, as this would hurt its economy, which is around 85% dependent on Russian gas imports.

He said in his speech that the Western strategy towards Ukraine was based on four pillars – that Ukraine can win a war against Russia with NATO weapons, that sanctions would weaken Russia and would destabilize his leadership, that sanctions would hurt Russia more than Europe, and that the world would align in support of Europe.

Orban said that strategy has failed because governments in Europe are collapsing “like dominoes”, energy prices have risen and a new strategy is needed now.

“We are sitting in a car that has a puncture in all four tyres: it is absolutely clear that the war cannot be won this way,” Orban told supporters.

He said Ukraine would never win the war that way “simply because the Russian military has an asymmetrical dominance.”

Orban said there was no chance for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

“As Russia wants security guarantees, this war can only end with peace talks between Russia and America,” he said.


Orban said the threat of an economic recession now looms over the whole of Europe, which also poses a risk to the Hungarian economy. Analysts expect GDP growth to slow to around 2.5% next year.

“We need to reach a new agreement with the European Union, these financial discussions are ongoing and we will reach an agreement,” he said.

The row over billions of euros in European funds has weighed on the forint in recent weeks as investors sold the currency amid deteriorating global sentiment, forcing Orban’s government to announce measures to reduce the budget deficit and abolish gas and electricity price caps for the most consuming households. Orban said maintaining the price cap would have cost the budget more than 2 trillion forints ($5.15 billion) this year alone.

The European Commission believes that EU money is at risk in Hungary due to what it calls corruption in tenders. It is also concerned about the independence of the judiciary, the media and non-governmental organizations.

Orban has in the past dismissed EU and US concerns about corruption in Hungary.

($1 = 388.5400 forints)

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Reporting by Krisztina Than; edited by Angus MacSwan and Jason Neely

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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