Mr Orbán described his negotiations conducted on Thursday at the EU summit as a success.
He said Hungary continues to refuse to send weapons to Ukraine, and merely consented to preventing the bankrupt Ukrainian state from collapsing.
In the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, Mr Orbán said peace is the key issue, but added that “in this department we’re not doing well because Brussels is in a state of war fever,” and European leaders argue on the basis of a war logic.
According to Hungary, in Brussels everything should revolve around peace, and every effort should be made to achieve a ceasefire within the shortest possible time, to be followed by peace talks, he laid down.
He said two years have gone by in the war, and both the Ukrainians and westerners had all sorts of hopes that have not come true. The war remains open, hundreds of thousands of people have died, and “there is effectively ongoing killing on the frontline,” there are conditions reminiscent of World War I and II.
He added that the EUR 50 billion approved for Ukraine on Thursday is not intended for weapons; it is provided with a view to maintaining the functioning of the Ukrainian state. The Ukrainian economy has effectively collapsed, “it’s on life support,” if the Americans and the EU stop sending them money, “they will have to shut up shop” which means that there are no pensions, no salaries, no hospitals, there is nothing.
Mr Orbán said Hungary would have liked the EU to send money for peace, but this was not possible because westerners continue to believe that time is on their side. The longer the war drags on, the more Ukraine’s military situation will improve in their view, he added.
The Prime Minister said “by contrast, I believe that the opposite is true. I believe that time is on the Russians’ side, and the longer the war lasts, the more people will die, and neither will the balance of power change in Ukraine’s favour. In that case, why continue the war?” This is the Ukrainian people’s decision because it is their country and they want to continue the war, he said, stressing that Hungary will not send weapons to the Ukrainians.
He said Hungary faced the threat that if EU Member States are unable to come to an agreement, the other twenty-six Member States will agree on the funds necessary for the functioning of the Ukrainian state, “they will take our money away, the money that we are entitled to, and will send it to Ukraine.”
Mr Orbán regards the EU summit and the preparatory talks as a success because “it was possible to agree with the large countries” that Hungary’s money cannot be taken away, and in return for that Hungary will take part in providing the money that is necessary for the continued functioning of the Ukrainian state, but will not send weapons and Hungary will continue to receive the funds it is entitled to. Our money will not be sent to Ukraine, he said.
He recalled that the Hungarian Left had said already two years ago that weapons must be sent to Ukraine, that we must support Ukraine’s military campaigns, and perhaps they would have even given the Hungarian people’s money to the Ukrainians. The Left is always eager to agree with Brussels on how Hungary should take part in military operations in Ukraine and should be pushed closer to the war situation, he concluded.
“By contrast, I’m always eager to agree with Brussels on how this should not happen,” the Prime Minister said.
As to how the situation has escalated in under two years from five thousand helmets to F-16s, he said this is “a million-dollar question,” and no one can tell anything about it with absolute certainty. He said it is a natural psychological process that when someone starts supporting something on a lesser scale, after a while, they will identify with those that they support.
He indicated that after a while he noticed that people in Brussels say things like “this is our war,” “the Ukrainians are fighting for us,” but this is a complete misunderstanding; there is a war atmosphere in the German press. It is evident that if the Russians are unable to defeat Ukraine, then how could they confront the whole of NATO? he pointed out.
He added that there are absurd arguments, and people in Brussels are finding it hard to admit that what they started was not a good decision and there is a need for change.
He said the voice of the countries in the European Union which maintain stronger links with the United States is becoming ever louder. From this he concludes that the American pressure, too, is becoming ever more intensive in some countries. European and American criteria are being confused, and he often has the feeling that in the case of some decisions, Brussels follows America’s interests, rather than those of Europe, he stated.
He said one thing is certain, there will be peace if there is change in Brussels.
He also spoke about the fact that while in December they managed to secure the disbursement of some of the funds Hungary is entitled to, now they managed to achieve the continued flow of funds and a guarantee that Hungary’s money will not be sent to Ukraine. “I would be very surprised if this agreement were not honoured,” the Prime Minister said.
The same as in any such debates, there are means in the hands of both Brussels and Hungary. It is true that the extent of these means is different, they are twenty-six, and if there is no agreement, they can harm us. However, “the harm we can cause them will not be pleasant either,” he said, adding that everyone would like to avoid that, and so at times like this they seek the limits as far as both parties are willing to go.
“I went as far as I possibly could,” the Prime Minister stated, indicating that if no agreement is reached because Hungary exercises its veto, then the 26 Member States come to an agreement, send the money to Ukraine, and even take the money of the Hungarians away and give it to Ukraine.
At the same time, this could have only happened at the expense of enormous conflicts which everyone wanted to avoid, Mr Orbán observed. Finally, they found a good solution: Hungary will not send weapons to Ukraine, will continue to receive funds from Brussels and will consent to the maintenance of the civilian Ukrainian state, he said in summary.
Regarding the farmer demonstrations, Mr Orbán said it is not fair on European farmers that while Brussels adopts rules that make production ever more costly, it is letting in agricultural products into Europe from countries where these rules are not in force.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Ukrainian agricultural products must not be allowed into the European market as is happening now, but the best solution is to not let them in at all.
Farmers are demonstrating because they feel that they and the Brussels decision-makers are worlds apart, and so they have no other means to have their voice heard than by “demonstrating in public places, honking their horns and clashing with the police.”
He said at the summit of prime ministers, there was a major debate about this, several of them angrily called upon the Commission to stop doing what they are doing.
He said in Brussels he met with demonstrating farmers who asked the Poles, Slovaks and Hungarians to block, to stop Ukrainian shipments at Europe’s border “if the Brusselites don’t have the sense to do so.”
He highlighted that there is a reason why the general feeling is that Brussels often represents the interests of others instead of the interests of the European people, the same as it is with the Left in the Hungarian Parliament. “Here, too, the situation is that, for instance, on the issue of weapons for Ukraine, the Hungarian Left is financed from abroad,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that those who provide the money are all pro-war, and they are providing money in order to drag Hungary – through the Left – into the war. So, it is clear that the Left in Hungary does not represent the Hungarian people’s interests. In Brussels, too, one can often see that they represent some other party’s interests, he observed, recalling that, for instance, when the Americans introduced punitive measures against the European automotive industry, he was left in a minority with those who would have responded with immediate mirror measures.
Mr Orbán therefore warned of the threat of “a democratic deficit.” If there is too much of a distance between electors and leaders, leaders are sent packing, and in this the Hungarians, too, will have a chance to take part in the European parliamentary elections due to be held in June.
At the beginning of the week, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó met with his Ukrainian counterpart and the head of the Ukrainian presidential office in Ungvár (Uzhhorod, Ukraine), and in connection with the talks, Mr Orbán also spoke about Ukrainian-Hungarian relations. After the meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said neither his Hungarian counterpart, nor the Hungarian Prime Minister are pro-Russian; they are pro-Hungarian. Responding to this comment, Mr Orbán stressed that in this regard he was not interested in the Ukrainian opinion because Hungary was a sovereign country. “We don’t require the kosher seal of the Ukrainians,” he said.
Naturally, Hungary belongs to the Hungarian people, and the Hungarian government represents the Hungarian people’s interests, pursuing distinct foreign policies in relation to Ukraine, Russia, America and Brussels, he pointed out.
He expressed hope at the same time that Hungary will be able to better cooperate with Ukraine in the future than it has done in the past, despite the fact that at present there is a very great distance between the two countries in a number of respects.
We do not want to interfere with the issue of the war because if Ukraine decides to undertake everything that goes with a war, it has a right to do so, he said, adding that, naturally, they cannot demand that Hungary support their fight on a mandatory basis.
He recalled that Hungary helps them with peace, and we have conducted the largest humanitarian campaign in the country’s history; we have allowed more than a million people to enter and stay in or transit through Hungary, there are tens of thousands of Ukrainians in Hungary who are given jobs by Hungarians, and Ukrainian children in the thousands attend Hungarian schools.
He pointed out, however, that some 150,000 indigenous Hungarians live in the territory of present-day Ukraine in a state of disenfranchisement that resembles the old communist times: they are denied the comprehensive usage of their mother tongue, and are compelled to face disadvantages on account of being Hungarian. This was not the case until 2015, and now the Ukrainians keep promising to restore all the former rights. However, in a situation like this, Hungarians say ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” he said.
He took the view that after the EU summit, there is more of a chance for change, but it has yet to be realised. Hungary has a vested interest in there being ongoing talks about the problems between Ukrainians and Hungarians, Mr Orbán said.