Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has urged EU officials to avoid talk of further sanctions on Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, repeating Budapest's warnings that such moves hurt the bloc's 27 members.
Szijjarto said in a statement that "The EU should...stop mentioning an eighth package of sanctions, should stop flagging measures that would only further deepen the energy supply crisis."
Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO, but is especially reliant on Russian gas and to a lesser extent oil.
Hungarian leaders including Prime Minister Viktor Orban have criticized Moscow's decision to attack Ukraine but resisted punitive measures including gas, oil, and other sanctions while also meeting repeatedly with Russian leaders.
Budapest's relations with Brussels have also gradually soured over rule-of-law and political issues currently driving a bitter dispute that threatens billions of euros' in EU subsidies earmarked for Hungary.
Orban, who was reelected for a fourth consecutive term in April, said earlier this year that the West was "shooting itself in the lung" through its unprecedented trade and economic sanctions and other punitive steps toward Russia since its full-scale invasion began in February.
His government has publicly resisted sanctions and military shipments to aid Ukraine's defense and continued warming relations with Moscow, including negotiating a new boost in Russian gas shipments.
Orban was alone among Western leaders in traveling to the funeral in Moscow of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev earlier this month, and Szijjarto made a surprise Russian visit in July.
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A Kremlin spokesman on September 19 praised Hungarian leadership for what it described as Budapest's willingness to take "sovereign positions" on issues within the EU.
Critics in Brussels have accused Orban and his Fidesz party of democratic backsliding, corruption, an assault on free media, and attacks on LGBT rights during the past 12 years in power.
Last week, the European Parliament approved a resolution saying Hungary was no longer a "full democracy,"
Hungary's justice minister, Judit Varga, said on September 19 that the government has submitted a bill to parliament aimed at avoiding the loss of the EU billions.
The proposal modifies legislation relating to Hungary's cooperation with the EU's anti-fraud office and rules affecting state asset management foundations.
The day before, the EU's executive called for the suspeion of 7.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in EU funding pledged toward Hungary over corruption, rights, and rule-of-law disputes.
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The Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the EU that every time it talks about new sanctions on Russia or banning and capping Russian oil and gas prices, energy prices skyrocket further and this only deepens the EU’s energy supply crisis.
This schism is manifesting itself by angry German and EU customers protesting against their governments over the excessive rises in energy bills. They are starting to question their governments about the wisdom of supplying Ukraine with billions of dollars of weapons when these huge sums could be used to offset the huge energy bills they are paying.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert