Representatives of liberal democracies are trying to “monopolize” the concept of democracy, a “thoroughly antidemocratic approach”, Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, told a panel discussion at the Athens Democracy Forum.

All countries are democratic as long as their people can decide their and their nation’s fate, a statement by the foreign ministry cited Szijjártó as saying. “Democracy needs no further qualification,” he said.

Regarding the rule of law in Hungary, Szijjártó said “lectures and criticism rooted solely in the fact that we have a conservative, patriotic, Christian Democratic government in power.”

“Viktor Orbán is the most democratic leader in Europe,” he said.

Hungarian foreign policy is driven by representing national interests, with the government aiming to forge pragmatic cooperations without interfering with other countries’ domestic affairs, Szijjártó said. Political stability is instrumental in that process, as it enables effective actions and representing national interests, he said.

In the discussion panel also attended by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarussian opposition leader, Szijjártó said the European Union’s foreign policy toolbox has proven to have limited success in similar crises. He called for a thorough discussion on the effectiveness of sanctions. Threatening with sanctions will have little effect if the sanctions themselves are ineffective, he said.

Sanctions may, in fact, be “hypocritical while larger member states conclude lucrative deals with countries they continue to lambast loudly,” Szijjártó said, citing China as an example, where certain officials are facing restrictions while China was the EU’s largest trading partner last year.

Tsikhanouskaya said EU sanctions were the bloc’s only means to place pressure on Belarus. Responding to a question, she said she saw all EU member states as democracies.