The position of the Hungarian government on the war in Ukraine was shared by Gergely Gulyás in a press conference held on Thursday.
The Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office answered numerous questions regarding the government’s approach to sanctions, its knowledge regarding the conflict itself, the historical relevance of the war, and Hungary’s relationship with Russia looking forward.
Gov’t Supports EU Sanctions, Despite Having Described them as “Dead Ends”
Gergely Gulyás voiced Hungary’s support of EU sanctions on Russia but emphasized that these must be done in a way that does not damage Europe or Hungary’s economies as much or even more than Russia’s. As an example, he emphasized that the energy sector must be left alone, since Hungary is especially reliant on Russian gas imports. He reaffirmed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has continuously said over the years that sanctions are effectively dead ends, but that Hungary has nevertheless supported the EU in passing them.
Regarding the decision of Fidesz Members of the European Parliament to support the EU’s decision to halt nuclear cooperation with Rosatom and Russia, Gulyás said that certain elements of the decision were unfavorable, but that MEPs voted in favor to maintain European unity. He added that current sanctions do not impact the Paks II upgrade.
Gulyás: Allies Should Not Make False Assertations
Asked why Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó labelled Donald Tusk, President of the European People’s Party (EPP), and not Vladimir Putin, as a notorious liar for claiming that Hungary blocked tough sanctions on Russia, Gulyás said different dimensions of an issue should not be mixed.
Even Manfred Weber has criticized Donald Tusk on specific instances in which he has made false assertions, that’s a question of facts. […] It’s a very serious situation when an ally makes false accusations on another ally in a state of war.”
On the subject of Hungary’s knowledge of Russia invading Ukraine, Gulyás said that the government was hopeful that a war would not take place, did everything it could to preserve peace, but still made preparations for a military conflict. No threats were made by Putin for Hungary to keep troops out of Ukraine, nor did Putin give the Hungarian government any information on their intentions for Ukraine, he added.
In the case that the conflict extends to reach Transcarpathian Hungarians, the Minister reiterated the government’s position of protecting Hungary’s borders, providing the region with humanitarian aid, and ensuring that refugees can make it to Hungary safely.
Hungary in 1956, Ukraine in 2022?
Gulyás was asked whether the government feels any connection between its current approach of not allowing weapons or military personnel to enter Ukraine and its view of how Western powers abandoned Hungary during the revolution of 1956.
In response he brought up that the two situations cannot be compared, since the geopolitical positions of Ukraine and Hungary are different, Gulyás said, adding that “you only have to look at a map.” Therefore, Hungary’s decision of abstaining from providing military aid in the war is justified. But the lack of action from the West in 1956, he said, cannot be justified. The Cold War conditions were also different than the circumstances of the 21st Century. According to Gulyás, a Western intervention could lead to the outbreak of a third world war. (Incidentally, one of the main reasons for the decision of the Western powers to abstain in 1956 was the fear of nuclear war. – editor)
He also added that Hungarian involvement would not have a significant enough impact on the balance of powers.
The situation of Hungary [in 1956] and Ukraine is not entirely comparable. But it is comparable inasmuch as a sovereign country has been attacked. This is why we condemn this action, but in Hungary we cannot represent interests other than Hungarian interests, and the Hungarian interest is indisputably in favor of staying out of the war.”
The Hungarian government has blocked the process of Ukraine’s NATO ascension due to Ukraine’s language law discriminating against its Hungarian minority. Minister Gulyás argues that this action was justified, adding that there was no war threatening its territorial integrity.
Putin’s decision has been condemned by the Hungarian government, and the relationship between his administration and the Orbán administration has always been intended only for economic interests.
It is worth talking about Russia. Russia is an economic partner of countless European countries, because without them, the acquisition of raw materials cannot be ensured in this region.”
The Minister does not believe Hungary has had a harsher stance towards the European Union than Russia. He does not believe the government may have gone too far with its relations with Russia.
Featured photo illustration by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI