Tuesday, August 16

Orbán does not want to talk about the embargo on Russian oil at the summit of EU leaders

  • The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, asks by letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michaelwhich does not include a debate at the European Council on 30 and 31 May

Almost three weeks ago the European Commission proposed to impose a gradual but total embargo on Russian oil, within the sixth package of sanctions against Russia with which to stop the financing of the war in Ukraine, but the proposal is still blocked by the Government of Hungary. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbannot only is he not willing to give his arm a twist, but he refuses to start a debate with the rest of the European leaders in the Extraordinary Summit of EU Heads of State and Governmentwhich is celebrated this May 30 and 31 in Brussels. It is what he has transferred by letter this Tuesday to the President of the European Council, Charles Michaelwhich continues the consultations with the rest of the European leaders to finalize the meeting’s agenda.

“Discussing the sanctions package at the level of European leaders in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive,” Orban argues in the letter, the content of which has been published by the newspaper Financial Timesyes “It would only serve to underscore our internal divisions without offering a realistic chance of resolving differences. Therefore, I propose not to address this issue at the next European Council”, he adds. According to Orban, accepting the package proposed by Brussels would not only lead his country to serious supply problems but would also send energy prices skyrocketing.

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Technical problems

The Hungarian government has been justifying its refusal to the embargo for weeks on technical and economic problems due to the structure of its refineries, prepared only to refine Russian oil, the capacity of the oil pipelines and the cost that adaptation will entail, which they estimate between 15,000 and 18,000 million. A difficulty that they understand in Brussels, but to which they have not been able to solve until now. Neither has the package of proposals Repower USAproposed last week by the Community Executive to reduce European dependency of fossil fuels from Russia, and which includes a package of 2,000 million euros for the most dependent countries – such as neighboring Slovakia or the Czech Republic – to modernize their infrastructures.

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The problem is that this funding would be channeled through the Recovery and Resilience Fund and that Brussels continues without giving the green light to the Hungarian recovery plan due to its doubts about the rule of law. Something that Orban also reproaches in the letter in which he warns that the blockade generates “serious problems” because the countries that have not yet seen their plans approved “cannot benefit” and “there are no indications on the modalities and the calendar to finance the urgent investments needed to replace Russian oil”.

Although diplomatic sources continue to trust the agreement, the president of the European Commission herself, Ursula von der Leyen, has ruled out that it is possible to achieve it at the leaders’ summit next week. “I think it is not an appropriate issue to be resolved in the European Council because what we are discussing is very technical,” she explained in an interview with the newspaper Politician on the margins of Davos World Economic Forum. “We are talking about landlocked countries that need an alternative supply through pipelines, so we have to talk about investment in pipelines, to increase supply. We are talking about refineries that have to be updated and investment and renewable energy”, he added, although without ruling out that there may be a political discussion.

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