Ukraine war: Hungary wants to ask citizens about support for EU sanctions against Russia

Hungary’s ruling party wants to ask the country’s citizens whether they support the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

Fidesz plans to convene a “national consultation” on energy sanctions, which it says have been decided by the EU’s “Brussels elite,” the party’s parliamentary group leader Mate Kocsis said at a news conference Thursday after a closed meeting.

“The sanctions are causing damage. They are destroying Europe’s economy,” said Kocsis. “We have to convince the European decision-makers, the members of the elite, that they shouldn’t keep the energy sanctions because big problems will arise from that.”

The survey, which the government calls a “national consultation,” is an informal survey available to every adult in Hungary and can be returned by post or completed online.

Such polls, issued multiple times by the governments of nationalist-populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban since he took office in 2010, have been criticized by pollsters and opposition parties for containing biased and guiding questions and for lacking any binding legal relevance.

In the press conference, Kocsis conceded that the consultation is a “political tool” that the government could use in its debates with the EU on extending or imposing further sanctions on Russia. He said the government will decide the timing of the poll.

The Hungarian government has been vocal in opposing EU sanctions against Moscow, arguing that they are causing more damage to European economies than Russia. Budapest has also refused to supply arms to neighboring Ukraine or allow their transfer across the border to the embattled country.

The pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet reported on Wednesday that Orban – who has had close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin for years – told the Fidesz conference that sanctions against Russia should be lifted and that this would curb inflation and lower gas prices half.