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Hungarian PM: EU sanctions hurt the West

August 15, 2014

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban believes the sanctions on Russia are more harmful to the West, saying the policy is like 'shooting oneself in the foot.' He urges the EU to rethink the measures.

Viktor Orban / Ungarn / Parlamentswahl
Image: Reuters

Hungary's conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for a rethink Friday on the EU's sanctions against Russia, saying the Russian import ban was damaging his country's export-based economy.

"The sanctions policy pursued by the West… a necessary consequence of which has been what the Russians are doing, causes more harm to us than to Russia," Orban said during his weekly interview spot on state-run radio.

"In politics, this is called shooting oneself in the foot," he said, adding that for an export-dependent economy like Hungary's, trade sanctions were always against national interests.

Orban's remarks echo the sentiments of his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, who criticized the sanctions Thursday as being "meaningless" and posing a threat to economic growth in the 28-member bloc.

Hungary has warned that its agricultural sector will incur annual losses of 80 million euros ($107 million) as a result of Russia's retaliatory measures. Orban said EU compensation was needed to cover the deficit.

However, Hungary's Agriculture Ministry said Tuesday that the country's farming exports would not be hurt significantly by Moscow's food ban, since these products account for less than 30 percent of Hungary's agricultural exports to Russia and only 1 percent of its total farming exports.

Russia is the country's largest trading partner outside of the EU. Hungary is also heavily reliant on Russian energy imports.

EU support for sanctions wavering?

EU foreign ministers also held an emergency meeting in Brussels Friday to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. But behind the tough rhetoric, there were signs that EU support for sanctions may be wavering.

Many EU countries fear a deepening trade war with Russia could further slow economic recovery in the 18-member eurozone, which logged zero economic growth in the second quarter.

But Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius countered, saying it was better to shoot yourself in the foot than to let yourself be shot in the head - a reference to fears in the former Soviet republic over Russian assertiveness.

el/uhe (AP, AFP, Reuters)