Prime Minister Viktor Orban says a bloc-wide ban on Russian oil would cause ‘serious’ damage to Hungary’s economy
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has ruled out further talks on a proposed European embargo on Russian oil, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. Although other EU leaders insist a ban is close to being finalized, Orban said such a deal cannot be done without a “Urgent investment” from Brussels.
In a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, Orban reportedly said a ban on Russian oil imports would lead to “serious supply problems” in Hungary and deliver a “price shock” to Hungarian households and industries.
Stating that the funding provisions of Brussels’ ‘REPowerEU’ plan are inadequate to support a transition away from Russian fossil fuels for his country, Orban reportedly said an oil embargo should not be discussed when EU leaders will meet next week to deliberate on a sixth package of economic sanctions measures against Russia.
“Discussing the sanctions package at the leadership level in the absence of consensus would be counterproductive,” wrote the PM. “It would only highlight our internal divisions without offering a realistic chance to resolve the differences. Therefore, I propose not to address this issue at the next European Council.”
Hungary depends almost entirely on Russia for its gas imports and depends on Moscow for more than half of its imported oil. Thus Budapest continued to buy gas from Russia in rubles, and opposed an oil embargo. Orban also spoke out more broadly against EU sanctions on Russia, comparing them last week to a “nuclear bomb” which could trigger a food crisis and massive migration within Europe.
As Orban’s opposition threatens to sabotage a possible oil embargo, European sources told Reuters earlier this month that Brussels is considering giving Hungary and Slovakia – which are also heavily dependent on the Russia for its energy needs – permission to continue buying Russian oil until the end of 2023, with a phased ban blocking imports to the rest of the union by the end of this year.
The Hungarian government, however, demanded that imports by land pipeline – which it receives from Russia – be completely exempt from an embargo.
Despite the lack of consensus within the EU, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday that the bloc’s 27 member states “will reach a breakthrough within days” under embargo. Germany had previously opposed sanctioning Russian energy, with industry leaders warning that such a move would crater the German economy. However, Finance Minister Christian Lindner announced in early May that Berlin would support any new EU sanctions against Russia, “including an oil embargo”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused European leaders of committing “suicide” trying to give up Russian energy. During a videoconference last week, Putin said EU countries were hampering their own economies “under pressure from their American overlord.”