Euro Officials Furious Over Hungary Decision to Block Further Russia Sanctions

15 May 2023, Saudi Arabia, Dschidda: Annalena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), German Foreign Minister, speaks to media representatives after her meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan at the delegation hotel. Foreign Minister Baerbock is visiting the countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during her three-day …
Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

Government officials in Europe are reportedly furious at Orban’s Hungary after it announced it would be blocking further sanctions against Russia.

Officials from a variety of EU countries are reportedly angry at Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian government over its decision to block further Russia sanctions due to an ongoing row with Ukraine.

Hungary has accused the Zelensky administration of acting in a manner “hostile” to the EU nation, with the country’s foreign minister taking particular issue with Ukrainian officials blacklisting Hungarian bank OTP over its alleged dealings with Russia.

The leak of an alleged Ukrainian bomb plot to sabotage Hungary’s oil supply — which is piped from Russia, as is much European energy — has also aggravated tensions between the two countries, with the Orbán government now saying that it will not support any more sanctions against Russia until Ukraine de-blacklists OTP.

One of the founding ideas of the European Union is the idea of unanimity, a safeguard that protects small nations from being steam-rollered by large in major decisions. That small nations like Hungary actually apply the principle from time to time deeply angers Eurocrats who now talk of abolishing it, removing one of the fundamental features of the system that helps keep the Union together.

According to a report by POLITICO, such a declaration has caused much anger and frustration amongst Europe’s elite, with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock getting into an argument with her Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, over the impasse.

Insiders describe Baerbock as attacking Hungary’s refusal to back sanctions by referencing uncited sources that say OTP bank has been doing business in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, and has also been providing Russian soldiers with banking products.

Such claims have been rejected both by Hungarian authorities as well as OTP itself, with the latter emphasising in a statement that it “does always follow Ukrainian and international law norms in its activities” and that accusations it had been providing services to Russian fighters were “not correct”.

“OTP Group’s Management expresses its support for Ukraine publicly. The management of OTP Bank in Ukraine strongly condemns the war; our colleagues defend our country on the front line,” the statement from the Ukrainian branch of the bank read. “We, OTP Bank Ukraine, will continue to do everything possible for the Victory of Ukraine!”

While other officials have also seemingly lashed out at Hungary for tying further sanctions to what they call “unrelated issues”, EU foreign affairs bigwig Josep Borrell has taken a more diplomatic approach to the problem, asking for those in Hungary to come to the table and discuss the issue.

“We have to do everything we can in order to [get] the next package of military support to Ukraine … approved,” he reportedly said. “If one member state has a difficulty, let’s discuss about it, that’s what we are going to do.”

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