Hungary is Not Giving In to the Oil Embargo Against Russia, Asks EU for up to €18 Billion

World » EU | May 17, 2022, Tuesday // 10:47
Bulgaria: Hungary is Not Giving In to the Oil Embargo Against Russia, Asks EU for up to €18 Billion Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Hungarian President Viktor Orban (right) @Wikimedia Commons

EU foreign ministers failed on Monday in trying to pressure Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed oil embargo against Russia, with Lithuania saying the union was "held hostage by a member state".

The European Commission's ban on crude oil imports in early May will be its toughest sanction to date in response to Moscow's February 24 invasion of Ukraine and includes compensation for EU countries that are most dependent on Russian oil, recalls Reuters.

Germany, the European Union's largest economy and a major buyer of Russian energy, has said it wants a deal to resolve the oil embargo, which it says could last for years.

As expected, the ministers failed to reach an agreement on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after the meeting, and ambassadors are now tasked with negotiating an agreement. "Unfortunately, it was not possible to reach an agreement today," Borrell told reporters, adding that Hungary had made its argument based on economic rather than political concerns.

Some diplomats now cite the May 30-31 summit as a key moment in an agreement to phase out Russian oil, probably within six months, with a longer transition period for Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

"I am confident that we will find an agreement in the coming days," said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Hungary, Moscow's closest ally in the EU, has said it wants hundreds of millions of euros from the bloc to mitigate the damage from the refusal of Russian oil. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Sijarto said Budapest had not received a new serious proposal from the European Commission on oil sanctions since Ursula von der Leyen visited Budapest a few days ago.

"The European Commission has created a problem with the proposal, so Hungary's expectations are justified ... The EU must propose a solution: to finance investments and compensate for ... the (caused) rise in prices, which requires a complete modernization of Hungary's energy structure in amounting to 15-18 billion euros," he said on Facebook.

Borrell questioned those figures, saying Sijarto had talked about much lower numbers with ministers on Monday and that the oil embargo went beyond the interests of individual EU governments. "We need to get rid of this strong dependence (on Russian energy) that makes us very vulnerable," Borrell said.

The oil embargo - already imposed by the United States and Britain, which will follow five rounds of earlier EU sanctions - is considered the best way to reduce Russia's income from the war in Ukraine. The EU has already banned Russian coal.

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