Ukraine is ‘serious problem’ for Europe beyond war: Orban

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday warned again that Ukraine’s integration posed a “serious problem” to Europe even without the war, two days ahead of a key summit in Brussels.

In an interview with French weekly Le Point, Orban said recent farmers’ protests across Europe showed “to what extent Ukraine is a serious problem for Europe, regardless of the war.”

Farmers have been angered by rising production costs and environmental regulations, as well as what they say is unfair competition from Ukrainian cereals and chickens.

“We have to be very careful because Ukraine is a huge country,” Orban said, adding that closer relations “will have an enormous, disastrous impact on European economies, particularly in the agricultural sector.”

He called on the European Commission to “defend European interests against the Ukrainians, not Ukrainian interests against European farmers.”

Orban is the only EU leader who has maintained close ties with the Kremlin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In December, Orban abstained from a decision to open EU membership talks with Ukraine by leaving the room when the vote was taken.

He also vetoed 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in EU aid for Kyiv over four years — which will be on the agenda at the EU leaders’ extraordinary summit on Thursday.

Orban confirmed in the interview that Budapest on Saturday made “a compromise offer”, suggesting that any decision be reviewed annually.

He decried Hungary “being alone” within the EU, while the 26 other member states “still think that there is a military solution” to the war in Ukraine.

The Financial Times reported over the weekend that Brussels “has outlined a strategy to explicitly target Hungary’s economic weaknesses… if Budapest refuses to lift its veto against the aid to Kyiv,” citing a document drawn up by EU officials.

Billions of euros in EU aid earmarked for Hungary remain frozen by Brussels pending progress on such issues as protecting academic freedom, ensuring the rights of LGBTQ people and accepting the rights of asylum seekers to claim protection.

“It’s a sort of blackmailer’s manual. I have no doubt about the authenticity of this document. Knowing Brussels, they are capable of it,” said Orban, who has frequent run-ins with Brussels.

He also said if Donald Trump had still been US president in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine, “there would be no more war in Europe”.

“Peace has a name — that of Donald Trump,” he said.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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