The Hungarian foreign minister has been highly critical of the EU’s sanctions against Russia, arguing that they have harmed member states’ economies more than their goals as well as failed to stop the war in Ukraine.
“If we do an assessment or analysis on the impact of the sanctions, it’s clear that they didn’t meet expectations,” Peter Szijjarto told CNBC’s Jeff Cutmore at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Because what was expected at the beginning of March, the end of February, when we discussed the first package of sanctions? It will bring the Russian economy to its knees, and therefore the war will soon stop,” he said.
Sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia include travel bans and asset freezes on a group of high-profile people; banning the import and export of a range of goods; And a ceiling on oil prices in cooperation with the Group of Seven and other allies. The union also aims to significantly reduce its imports of natural gas from Russia.
Szijjártó continued: “The Russian economy is definitely not on its knees. We can make different assessments of how bad they are doing, but they are not on their knees, and the war is not over. Europe’s economy is suffering more from sanctions than the Russian economy.”
“So, if you look at it in a pragmatic way, not in an ideological way, what is the impact of the sanctions, you will see that they are more harmful to Europe than Russia. So we should not go ahead with the sanctions because they simply did not achieve the expectations and the goal that we put on them.”
the Russian ruble It was the worst-performing emerging-market currency last year despite holding on for some time after the invasion of Ukraine. The International Monetary Fund predicted that GDP would contract by 3.4% in 2022 with an inflation rate of 13.8%, another economic downturn. Public.
Recent research from the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent Finnish think tank, estimated that the G7 price cap cost Moscow an estimated €160 million ($171.8 million) per day.
The war and the resulting energy and food supply crisis also increased inflation in European Union countries and raised the specter of recession, although other factors including the impact of the pandemic on the workforce and supply chain issues were also raised as factors.
Szyjjarto said Hungary condemns the war and stands with Ukraine, but emphasized that he does not believe sanctions are the path to peace.
“Ultimately, we have to contribute to rebuilding Ukraine, but if we destroy our economies, we will not be in a position to help Ukraine rebuild it,” he said.
Asked why Hungary voted in favor of the sanctions, he said it had been granted exceptions in areas vital to its national interests, such as oil and gas purchases because it cannot import from other sources due to pipeline infrastructure.
Szijjarto defended Hungary’s decision not to send weapons to Ukraine, as have Western powers including the United States, which the leaders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania said on Tuesday should be increased.
He said it chose instead to provide humanitarian aid to the one million Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the country and would advocate for peace talks, because it did not want the Hungarian community centered on the border between the two countries to be targeted in the war. .
Szijjártó also accused the EU of withholding money owed to it through European funds tied to economic performance at the bloc level because, he said “for political reasons…because Brussels hates having an anti-mainstream, right-wing, nationalist, Christian Democratic government in Hungary for more than 12 years.” And it’s still successful.”
The European Commission directed CNBC to comment on Hungary and the sanctions made by spokesperson Peter Stano on Monday, saying: “All EU sanctions decisions are taken by member states unanimously.”
“So far, the EU member states have adopted nine wide-ranging packages of sanctions against Russia for its illegal aggression against Ukraine, reflecting the EU policy agreed by the 27 member states that we stand by Ukraine and stand by it in a number of countries. Economic, financial and military paths and by putting pressure on the Putin regime through sanctions and international isolation.
Stano said these are constantly under review and any future decision will again be made by consensus.