Russian oil embargo | Paris and Berlin hope for a release despite Hungary’s resistance

(Brussels) Paris on Tuesday estimated after Berlin that Hungary’s blockade of the European Union’s (EU) embargo on Russian oil could still be overcome in the coming days, contradicting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who says an agreement is “very unlikely”.

Posted on May 24th

In talks with the European Commission, Hungary is “unable to accept the sixth package of sanctions until negotiations have led to the resolution of all outstanding issues,” the sovereignist leader writes in a letter to the President of the European Council. Karl Michael.

“Solutions must precede sanctions,” he warns in Monday’s letter, consulted by AFP on Tuesday.

“Given the seriousness of the outstanding issues, it is very unlikely that a full solution can be found before the extraordinary summit” of 27 leaders scheduled for May 30-31, he believes.

He demanded that this issue should “not be examined” at the summit, in the name of “European Union unity” which “must remain our priority”. Unanimity among all 27 EU member states is required to approve sanctions.

“I am convinced that a discussion of the sanctions package at senior level without consensus would be counterproductive. It would only reveal our internal divisions without offering a realistic chance of resolving differences,” Viktor Orbán continued.

Hungary dependent on Russian oil

As a landlocked country with no access to the sea, Hungary relies on the oil brought in from Russia through the Druzhba pipeline. The Hungarian leader stressed that the proposed oil embargo would “immediately lead to serious supply disruptions in Hungary” and push up prices “by around 55% to 60%”.

As Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic felt the proposal for a two-year waiver to implement the oil embargo was insufficient, Hungary requested at least four years and almost 800 million euros (C$1.1 billion) in EU funding to adapt its refineries and to increase the capacity of the Adriatic pipeline originating from Croatia.

Otherwise, Budapest demands that pipelines be exempted from this 6and EU sanctions package.

Despite Hungary’s repeated refusals, Paris on Tuesday estimated that “there is still a possibility to lift the Hungarian veto in the past few days,” adding that “various options are on the table.”

Regarding Hungary’s demands for 800 million and the 4-year deadline, the Elysée indicated that a compromise was nearing in the talks between Budapest and the Commission.

The day before, Berlin had also expressed optimism and spoke of a “breakthrough within a few days”.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also told CNBC on Tuesday that she “hopes” an agreement would be a matter of “days”, while referring to Euronews as “several weeks”.

To support its case for a special regime, Hungary fears an increase in its oil bill that would prevent it from capping fuel prices, as it has done since November 2021.

“Exiting Russian oil is impossible without a full restructuring of our refining capacity, requires increased and accelerated investment in our energy infrastructure, and a rapid green transition,” Orbán argues in his letter.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto last week estimated the cost of halting its purchases of Russian oil at “€15-18 billion” (C$20-25 billion) to explain his request for an exemption from pipeline supplies.

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