Ukraine has been saddled with allies of different hues in its fight against Russia. With tragedy befalling at every instant, Ukraine was kept emboldened by the strong force of support rendered by an inconsistent group called the EU. The world looked at the organization to contribute a lifetime of support to a bereaved Kyiv, but the exact opposite has taken place.
With the reality of the war dawning in on Ukraine, a new nemesis has emerged in the form of Austria much to the dismay of Zelensky. It was just last week that Austria headlined the tabloids with a diplomatic visit to Putin which the chancellor remarked was ‘not a friendly one’. The remark got accepted within the Ukrainian power circles seeing the diplomatic ties Vienna holds with Kyiv. But not in anyone’s tremor of thought it came that Austria in one week would oppose a possible inclusion of Ukraine into the European Union.
Austrian foreign minister in due time came with his side of reasoning to put an end to the surmises and shots that have been getting traction on the global stage. Mr. Alexander Schallenberg justified his position by saying there are countries in the Western Balkans, which the EU calls “enlargement countries”, who have come a long way without full membership. He also pressed on the point that Ukraine can’t have a “different way” when it comes to connecting Europe.
Ukraine has been left disappointed after Austria’s Foreign Minister said the country should not be offered membership in the European Union. Speaking at the 14th European Media Summit in Lech, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said alternative paths should be considered instead of Ukraine receiving candidate status in June. A Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson has called the comments “strategically short-sighted.” Here’s exactly how it happened.
What did Austria’s Foreign Minister say?
In his speech, Alexander Schallenberg called for a “different way” for Ukraine to connect with Europe. Austrian publication Heute reported that Mr. Schallenberg called for models other than full membership and for more flexibility. He justified his position by saying there are countries in the Western Balkans, which the EU calls “enlargement countries,” who have come a long way without full membership. Referring to the war in Ukraine, he said Austria was “militarily neutral, but not politically.“
The admissible reaction from Ukraine was a disappointment. The Ukrainian foreign ministry batted away the remarks by saying, “the comments ignore the fact that the vast majority of the population of the EU founding member states support Ukraine’s membership.” The fury and grief over the war stand no chance when it comes to the membership in EU. Moreover, it’s not an overnight process. Contrary to the statements pushed by the Ukrainian foreign ministry, the countries opposing the inclusion of Ukraine into the EU stand aplenty, and the latest entry into the list is Germany.
Germany joins the Team
Germany, the touted financial superpower within the EU power bloc has been surviving serious inflation at the cost of going strong against Russia. Berlin enraged Russia with an array of policy matters that began with the cancellation of the vanity project Nord stream-2. To exhaust Russia, further sanctions followed at the behest of Germany’s ‘western masters’, but the current predicament stands gives a picture of how the EU fiddled with the hopes of Germany in the name of sanctions against Russia.
Moreover, the ruling government of Germany is a divided pole with tenacious Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party colliding in opinion over policy matters employed by the ruling government. The economic forte that was amassed with the experience and resoluteness of Angela Merkel is on the verge of crumbling to dust. It was well evident when the central bank of Germany lashed out against the government for being ineffective in tackling the ruthless inflation that has got the rage of the masses.
It needs no further explanation on why Germany shouldn’t lend their support to Ukraine while keeping a blind eye on the domestic problems and troubles that keep on picking pace in the country. Apart from the unfit armaments in the name of military assistance to Ukraine, Germany still has time in its kitty to alter course to pacify an irascible Russia from further disappointments.
Germany hangs and the EU is silent
When the war broke out, Germany, like the rest of Europe, allied with the Americans. In retaliation to Putin’s actions, Germany halted its own profitable Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But, Olaf had no idea how much worse things could go for Germany. Before the war, Russian natural gas accounted for 55 % of Germany’s gas needs, with nearly a third of that used for industrial purposes such as steel and chemicals. Energy costs had been rising for months before Russia invaded Ukraine, but the war has exacerbated a supply shortage in Europe, pushing prices even higher. Germany, Russia’s largest energy buyer in Europe, is particularly concerned about this.
Germany also faces the possibility that if the EU’s pressure deepens, Russia would respond against western sanctions by cutting off gas supplies to Europe unilaterally. In any case, Berlin is facing a scenario that was unimaginable only a few weeks ago: a gas supply shock that would force it to ration energy to industry and potentially force the closure of some of the country’s largest industries. On the other hand, the EU appears to be utterly unaware of the situation. They haven’t said anything about Germany or the European economy. They do, however, have a problem with Germany’s objections to sanctions.
Late in the game, Olaf!
Considering the recent actions, Olaf appears to have grasped that the EU’s efforts are ultimately shooting itself in the foot. The German government has begun to oppose the European Union’s gas embargo against Russia. Whereas, in a historic declaration in the lower house of the German Parliament, Olaf Scholz began shredding Germany’s security dependence on the US. A fund of €100 billion was established in an attempt to increase German military firepower.
Germany has begun delaying military aid to Ukraine, which has sparked outrage in the EU and been criticized by major news outlets. The truth is Germany is playing it safe so it does not elicit any economic retaliation from Russia. Moreover, German politicians now openly recognize that the EU requires Russia to defend its citizens against China or the United States. This warning from the German central bank is one of the reasons why the German Chancellor has decided to take a step back and fight the EU without armaments.
With the worry that a sudden gas cut-off would paralyze huge portions of German industry and a lack of discernment on the part of Germans, Olaf Scholz, and his cabinet, through various steps, have begun to prioritize German interests and have insisted on avoiding Russian retaliation. The Bundesbank has warned the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that an embargo on Russian gas imports might push Germany into a state of recession.
According to Germany’s central bank, an immediate EU ban on Russian gas would cost the country €165 billion (£138 billion) this year. The German economy would enter into one of its worst post-financial-crisis recessions, with the overall GDP shrinking by 2%. Robert Habeck, the country’s economy minister, has too warned its citizens to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, i.e. “mass unemployment and destitution”.
The European Union has already banned Russian coal and is contemplating an oil embargo. However, plans for a gas boycott have stalled, owing in part to Germany’s concerns that a recession on its soil might have disastrous knock-on repercussions across the EU as Germany is one the strongest pillar of the EU’s economic shelter.
Meanwhile, Hungary is in a different league. It never acquiesced before the deceiving mastery of the West nor before the big words propelled by the EU. Viktor Orbán’s recent victory also stands as a testament to the fact of how people receive a leader who endorses a strongman like Putin.
Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister and ‘Fidesz’ Party frontman Viktor Orbán, who won the fourth consecutive term in office has taken a pro-Russian stance amidst the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And the Hungarians seem to have accepted his position, as evidenced by this resounding victory. However, the EU, which had predicted Orbán’s election defeat, is enraged. To their chagrin, the Hungarians voted for Orbán, thereby endorsing his pro-Russia stance. An enraged EU is thus now set to slap sanctions on Hungary for its pro-Russia position.
Viktor Orbán– the Trojan Horse inside the EU
Under Orbán’s leadership, Hungary, which is a member of both the EU and NATO, has chosen a posture that may be deemed anti-EU. Viktor Orbán was a pro-western politician in his early political career. However, he is no longer as devoted to the Western world as he once was. He was anti-communist, but not anti-Russian. Furthermore, his conservative stance on a number of topics has prompted the EU to take harsh measures. For instance, Orbán’s obsession with George Soros’ activities in Hungary, made him pass the “Stop Soros” law, which would make it an offense to help people apply for asylum. This law left the EU in annoyance.
Also, the controversial LGBTQ law that Hungary introduced in 2021 not only gained unequivocal condemnation from the EU but also prompted the EU to take legal actions against the law. But the paramount reason for the EU’s disapproval of Orbán is his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Orbán in recent years has boasted about his close relations with Russia.
According to a report in Eurostat, Hungary under its leadership has increased its share of imports of Russian natural gas, from 9.070 million cubic meters in 2010 to a high of 17.715 million cubic meters in 2019. Hungary now gets close to 85% of its gas from Russia, and 64% of its oil. It also became the first EU nation to buy Russia’s COVID vaccine Sputnik V and shunned the Pfizer vaccines.
The EU hoped that Hungarians would rise in revolt against Orbán and dethrone him in the coming elections. But to its dismay, Orbán achieved a landslide victory.
EU tries to punish the Hungarians
The European Commission has now launched a rule-of-law disciplinary procedure against Hungary. The untested mechanism, designed to prevent EU funds from being misused by countries’ backsliding on the rule of law, was agreed upon by all 27 EU leaders in late 2020 and could ultimately deprive Budapest of more than €40bn of EU payments. Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, told the European Parliament on Tuesday that Budapest had been informed of the decision and “we will now send the letter of formal notification to start the conditionality mechanism”.
But dear European Nations, how did you fail to comprehend this victory? The fact that Orbán has emerged victorious, clearly indicates that the people of Hungary have endorsed his pro-rights policies as well as his pro-Putin stance. Any action against Hungary at this point raises questions on ‘democratic values and principles that are much-touted by the EU.
Appraising the reality, the strong bloc of Germany, Austria, and Hungary are about to make moves in the realization that only one side can lose in a war.
source TFG Global Online