‘Not acceptable’: Xavier Bettel lashes out at Viktor Orbán over Kirill's removal from EU sanctions

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By Euronews
Xavier Bettel texted Viktor Orban to express his displeasure but he said he's still waiting for an answer.
Xavier Bettel texted Viktor Orban to express his displeasure but he said he's still waiting for an answer.   -  Copyright  Olivier Matthys/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The prime minister of Luxembourg has decried as "unacceptable" the last-minute removal of Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia's Orthodox Church, from the new list of EU sanctions.

The Hungarian government voiced opposition to Kirill's inclusion days after leaders met in Brussels to endorse the sixth package of sanctions, which also includes a partial ban on Russian oil imports.

"What happened this week, with Kirill, is not acceptable," Xavier Bettel told Euronews at the 2022 ALDE Party Congress in Dublin, where leading liberal figures from across Europe were meeting.

"We had a deal. And a deal is a deal. And it’s not the day after that you say that it threatens, and you do not accept the deal, because someone is on the list of sanctions. It was known that Kirill was on the list."

Bettel said he had sent a text to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán "to tell him that this was not acceptable. That I really was not amused about this. I am still waiting for an answer."

Hungary opposed the blacklisting of Patriarch Kirill on the grounds of religious liberty. Brussels and other capitals, however, see Kirill as a key wartime propagandist for Vladimir Putin.

In a sermon delivered in early May, Kirill stated that "Russia has never attacked anyone" and, separately, that "We don't want to go to war".

Only after the patriarch's name was removed from the sanctions list could ambassadors approve the new raft of EU sanctions.

Kirill's exclusion was the second sanctions-related concession extracted from the EU by Hungary this week. On Monday, Viktor Orbán secured an indefinite exemption for oil pipelines in exchange for approving the seaborne oil embargo.

Asked about this carve-out, Bettel was more sympathetic, arguing that provision was meant to address the concerns of all landlocked countries, like the Czech Republic, who are heavily reliant on Russian oil.

"They told us that if they [couldn't] get more time or an alternative," he said, "they would have a problem of losing everything from one day to the next."