Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Friday European Union’s sanctions against Russia were ineffective and should be scrapped.
“Hungary’s position on the sanctions is that (they are) useless,” Szijjarto said in an interview just days ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest to discuss closer energy ties.
Hungary, a member of NATO and the EU, has remained on good terms with Russia under the sanctions regime, imposed following its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its subsequent involvement in the separatist conflict in Ukraine.
He estimated Hungary had lost export opportunities worth $6.5 billion since EU’s sanctions were imposed in 2014.
“Should we be happy with Russia’s economy declining? No, we regret that,” he said, adding that Budapest did not view Moscow as a threat.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has in the past criticised the sanctions, and his overall relations with EU authorities have been less smooth, with Budapest notably defying Brussels over the latter’s attempt to introduce a quota system for hosting refugees.
Szijjarto said the sanctions had also damaged the wider European economy and failed politically as they had not persuaded Russia to honour the four-power Minsk agreement to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
“I don’t see Russia as a threat on Hungary. I understand and respect that our Polish friends, Baltic friends have another position on that… Russia would not attack any NATO member state. I don’t think it would be in Russia’s interest.”