Citing losses in the billions, Hungary foreign minister urges lifting of sanctions against Russia

January 24, 2017

MTI Fotó: Koszticsák Szilárd

Hungary may have lost some USD 6.5 billion in export revenues over the past three years owing to EU-imposed economic sanctions against Russia, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó. The minister, in Moscow for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, told Russian paper Kommersant that the sanctions, in place since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, are “ineffective and harmful” but he hopes talks between Russia and the USA will lead to the EU easing the measures.

“The EU follows America in its relation to Russia in many respects, even though we haven’t liked America’s Russia policy until now, which is why we welcome Donald Trump’s election victory,” Szijjártó told the Russian daily. He believes that EU partners will be easier to convince to lift sanctions if productive talks between the two superpowers are held, adding that “Central Europe always loses in conflicts between the East and West, which is why Hungary supports an American-Russian dialogue.”

Hungary was one of several EU countries to express reservations about imposing sanctions on Russia, and in 2014 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán urged bilateral negotiations to resolve the escalating conflict in Ukraine, saying the EU had “shot itself in the foot” by imposing the sanctions and should compensate Hungary for its losses. Hungary ultimately voted with the EU to impose sanctions but has since made clear its desire to have them removed.

Szijjártó said Hungary would like to be a “pillar” of the relaunching of EU-Russian relations, and reiterated his warning that the EU risked falling behind in global economic competition unless it arrives at “a pragmatic, close cooperation” with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Budapest on February 2.