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War of words over Ukraine conflict

October 3rd, 2022

Pundits from all sides of the political spectrum ponder the implications and use of EU sanctions on Russia and the ‘national consultation’ the Hungarian government has called to discuss them.

In Magyar Nemzet, László Szentesi Zöld welcomes the Hungarian government’s efforts to put peace first and call for end to the fighting in Ukraine. The pro-government commentator explains the war as a conflict between, on the one hand, an effort by US Democrats to disrupt Russian-European cooperation, and Russia’s desire to stop NATO expansion on the other. He believes that a prolonged war involving two nuclear powers is a threat to humanity. He finds it sad that the EU has not yet realized that as long as the war goes on, Europe will have to face energetic, economic and political crises.

Writing in the same daily, László Szőcs blames high energy prices on EU sanctions. The pro-government pundit claims that George Soros earned 431 billion USD by investing in the LNG sector. Szőcs finds it normal that investors want profit, but he finds it highly controversial that George Soros has high influence on the US Democratic Party and uses his money to ‘create chaos’ in Hungary. Szőcs concludes by suggesting that sanctions did not stop the war but have made US investors even wealthier.

In Élet és Irodalom, by contrast, Miklós Losoncz deems EU sanctions on Russian energy successful and necessary. The liberal analyst also calls for further EU measures, including a price cap on gas imported from Russia. This, he claims, would help EU countries to buy energy at a cheaper price but would also cut Russia’s revenues and its ability to finance the war against Ukraine.

In his weekly Népszava column, Gyögy Bolgár dismisses Prime Minister Orbán’s suggestion that galloping inflation and high energy prices are caused by EU sanctions targeting Russia. In his bi-weekly interview with Kossuth Rádió, PM Orbán said that “Brussels lied about sanctions” when the EU promised not to boycott Russian energy exports. The PM added that inflation would be halved without the sanctions. PM Orbán added that speculators, including George Soros, earned a windfall of billions in profits thanks to high energy prices, while sanctions have not stopped the war.  Bolgár recalls that the EU’s partial boycott of Russian oil was introduced only in June (and will be in effect only from December), while gas imports are not sanctioned. Therefore, high energy prices simply cannot be explained with EU sanctions, Bolgár believes. He adds that the government introduced price caps as a response to growing inflation in 2021, well before the war in Ukraine, and thus, once again, the high inflation rate cannot be blamed on EU sanctions.

Commenting on the government’s ‘national consultation’ on EU sanctions (see BudaPost September 24), Ervin Nagy in Magyar Hírlap accuses the Left of ignoring the will of the people. The conservative commentator sees the national consultation as a participatory tool. By criticizing the proposal, the opposition parties acknowledge their fear of democracy, Nagy writes. He hopes that other governments in the EU will follow suite and ask their citizens if they want to sanction Russia.

In Magyar Hang, Benedek Ficsor calls the national consultation a blunt propaganda tool. Ficsor thinks that the government uses the consultation to lay the blame for the decline of well-being in Hungary on the EU. Ficsor also accuses the government of legitimizing Russian aggression by calling for unconditional peace

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