And will the two countries be able to achieve the cancellation of the initiatives criticized by Moscow The special positions of Hungary and Turkey hinder the efforts of the EU and NATO in their confrontation with Russia. What is the reason, does Budapest and Ankara have a desire to take into account the position of Moscow and how everything can end – RBC figured out
Statue of the Goddess of Europe in Brussels
On Wednesday, May 18, representatives of the EU countries will meet again in Brussels to discuss the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. But European leaders cannot expect that it will be adopted in the near future in the proposed form: the reason for this is the position of Hungary and the fact that decisions in the union are made on the basis of consensus.
A few days earlier, Turkey announced that he cannot agree to the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO.
Why Hungary continues to insist on its veto
The sixth package contains a proposal to introduce a ban on the import of crude oil from Russia in six months, as well as on the import of Russian oil products from 2023. Even at the initial stage of discussing these measures, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were against the oil embargo, since they are heavily dependent on energy supplies from Russia. The European Commission decided to meet them halfway and allowed Hungary and Slovakia to continue importing Russian oil until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic— until June 2024. After that, Bratislava and Prague withdrew their objections. However, Budapest is still not ready to withdraw its veto.
The position of the government of Viktor Orban was sharply criticized at the EU ministerial meeting on 16 May. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that Hungary is holding the European Union hostage. “The whole union is being held hostage by one member state that cannot help us find a consensus,” — complained Landsbergis, specifying that the EU expected that Hungary's proposed delay would be enough for it to lift the veto.
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, stood up for Budapest, pointing out that Hungary's objections are not political, but economic. He explained that the country is concerned about the problem of creating new infrastructure and purchasing new equipment for receiving and processing oil not from Russia, for which its refineries are designed. In addition, the rejection of Russian oil will mean that Budapest will have to purchase it from other suppliers at higher prices, which will affect the Hungarian economy.
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Viktor Orban has previously compared ditching Russian oil to “a nuclear strike on the Hungarian economy.” On the air of Kossuth Radio, he recalled that Hungary has no access to the sea, and therefore it is forced to receive oil through the pipeline. “The pipeline to Hungary starts in Russia… that's the reality,” — he stated.
Hungary's dependence on Russian energy is really significant— 60% of oil and 85% of gas the country receives from Russia. Orban said the country needs five years to convert oil refineries and other infrastructure to process raw materials from non-Russian sources. This process will require huge investments, and the increase in the cost of oil will lead to an increase in unemployment and call into question the national program to reduce public utility costs, which is largely based on low prices for Russian energy resources.
The high inflation rate in the country and the budget deficit, including the blocking by Brussels of a €8 billion tranche intended for the recovery of the Hungarian economy after the pandemic (the reason was the divergence of views between Budapest and Brussels on the rule of law), carry significant risks for the country .
Against this backdrop, on May 16, Budapest decided to raise the stakes in the game: Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that “a complete modernization of the Hungarian energy infrastructure is needed on a scale from «15 billion to»18 billion”, later specifying that Hungary has the right to expect a new proposals from Brussels. At that time, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was in Budapest on a visit, but her negotiations with Orban ended in nothing.
According to the Euractiv portal, the clause on lifting the Hungarian veto from the sixth package of sanctions in exchange for economic preferences may be submitted to an informal EU summit scheduled for late May. The Financial Times quoted an unnamed European official as saying the EU should make the Hungarian prime minister a lucrative offer. “Orban is very pragmatic, it's business,” — he explained.
What is Turkey counting on in the dispute over NATO expansion
As for NATO expansion, Turkey's position has become an unexpected obstacle to the alliance between Sweden and Finland, says Asli Aydintashbash, senior political analyst at the European Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFR). Ankara cannot yet give a positive conclusion on the admission of the two new countries, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Friday. “Scandinavian countries as guest houses for terrorist groups”, — he gave one of the reasons.
Indeed, Ankara has repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that many supporters of the PKK found refuge in Sweden and Finland. (PKK, classified as a terrorist organization in Turkey), as well as supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen (whom Ankara considers the organizer of the coup attempt in 2016).
On May 17, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö expressed hope that that the crisis can be overcome. “Turkey's statements have changed very quickly and become tougher in the last few days,” he said on Tuesday in an address to the Swedish parliament (quoted by Reuters).— But I am sure that with the help of constructive discussion we will solve the problem.
As Aydintashbash notes, it is not yet clear what exactly Erdogan wants— change the position of the US Congress on the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey (the deal was canceled after Ankara bought and received the Russian S-400 air defense system), get more money to support Syrian refugees or extradite political activists suspected of terrorist activities to Turkey.
“It is unlikely that Erdogan had one specific political goal in mind, but he will certainly expect to be persuaded, persuaded and rewarded for his cooperation, as he has been in the past,” concluded the ECFR analyst.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry describes relations with both northern countries in calm tones. As stated on the website of the department, relations with Sweden date back to the 17th century, when the Swedish king Charles XII, after being defeated in the Northern War by Russia in 1709, fled to the Ottoman Empire and ruled the kingdom from Bender and Edirne for five years. Diplomatic relations with Finland were established in 1924. Trade turnover with Sweden in 2020 amounted to about $2.6 billion, with Finland— approximately $1.3 billion.
The main problem is not in Finland, but in Sweden, says Al-Monitor. The kingdom has received several waves of Turkish migrants, including Kurds, as well as refugees from Turkey's neighboring countries, and the Swedish Foreign Ministry regularly criticizes Turkish military operations in Kurdish territories in Syria.
In 2019, Sweden and Finland imposed an arms embargo on Turkey due to military operations in Syria. By this time, both countries had become leaders among countries selling military goods to Ankara: Swedish military exports to Turkey in 2018 reached $30 million, Finnish exports in the same year amounted to $17 million. in the terrorist activities of immigrants (On Monday, the Turkish Ministry of Justice said that Ankara had requested the extradition of six members of the PKK from Finland and 11 from Sweden).
“Ankara's statements cause concern in Sweden, among other things, because they hit exactly one of the arguments that was cited by those who did not quite agree with joining NATO, — fear that Sweden will lose the right to vote in matters of human rights and democracy, — Paul Levine, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, told Al-Monitor.
“Based on the statements of the Turkish authorities, it can be assumed that Turkey will continue to insist on its position, will bargain for concessions from the two northern countries,— predicted in a conversation with RBC director of the Center for the Study of Modern Turkey, researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Amur Gadzhiev.— Will two countries go to give in, & mdash; this is a big question. We see that, on the contrary, there were marches against concessions, which indicates that the process will not be easy and it will not be easy for them to give in on these issues.
Other NATO countries no longer have leverage to influence Turkey so much, the expert notes, therefore, based on the previous experience of conflict situations involving the republic, one can expect, he believes, that a compromise option will appear, which will eventually be accepted by all parties.
According to Hajiyev, in the Turkish position, Ankara's intention to take into account Russia's negative position regarding the membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO is not traced.
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