BUDAPEST (Reuters) – European Union efforts to impose an embargo on Russian oil faced further hurdles on Wednesday, with Hungarian officials saying they would not support the plan in its current form and recommending to remove the subject from the agenda of the summit of European leaders next week.
The EU has been working to forge a consensus among its 27 member countries to cut off Russian oil by the end of 2022 to block a key source of revenue funding Russia’s war in Ukraine.
While some Central and Eastern European countries initially expressed reservations about the embargo, Hungary remains the most vocal member country to block the measure, which is part of a sixth round of sanctions proposed by the EU against Russia.
At a press conference in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday that Hungary would not vote in favor of the proposed oil embargo “as long as it would make energy supplies impossible of Hungary”.
He accused the EU’s executive branch of pushing the plan without ensuring energy security for Hungary, which gets 85% of its natural gas and more than 60% of its oil from Russia.
“This problem was created by the European Commission, so the solution must be proposed by the European Commission. The solution must come first, and only then can we talk about sanctions,” Szijjarto said.
While the EU previously offered exceptions to landlocked countries like Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic that are particularly dependent on Russian oil, granting them extended deadlines for phasing out, the government in Budapest has remained firm in its opposition. sanctions against Russian energy. .
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is considered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU, has claimed that an EU oil boycott would be an “atomic bomb” for the Hungarian economy and would destroy its “stable energy supply”.
Orban wrote a letter to the President of the European Council on Monday, asking that the oil embargo project be removed from the agenda of the summit which is due to start on May 30.
In the letter to Charles Michel, Orban said that Hungary was “not in a position to accept the 6th sanctions package until negotiations have succeeded in resolving all outstanding issues”, and that he was “very unlikely” that a solution would be found before next week’s summit. .
“I am convinced that discussing the sanctions package at the leadership level in the absence of consensus would be counterproductive,” Orban wrote. “Maintaining the unity of the European Union must remain our priority.”