Hungary says European Union proposals to enact sanctions on Russian oil do not provide any guarantees for its energy security and that it cannot support the plan in its current form.
On Wednesday, the EU’s chief called for a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of 2022. Under the plan, Hungary and Slovakia would be granted a longer period – until the end of 2023 – to adapt to the embargo.
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Following the annoucement, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said his country sees no plans on how a transition could be managed.
“We do not see any plans or guarantees on how a transition could be managed based on the current proposals, and how Hungary’s energy security would be guaranteed,” Kovacs told Reuters and AFP news agencies.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary could not support the proposal in its current form.
“The Brussels package of sanctions would ban oil shipments from Russia to Europe, with a rather short notice, in case of Hungary the end of next year,” Szijjarto said in a Facebook video.
Hungary could only agree to these measures if crude oil imports from Russia via pipeline were exempted from the sanctions, the minister said.
State ambassadors from the EU’s 27 members met to discuss von der Leyen’s plan on Wednesday, with talks expected to continue on Thursday. A unanimous agreement has to be reached before it goes into effect.
Hungary and Slovakia have previously said they will not support the sanctions against Russian energy that the EU is preparing over the war in Ukraine, insisting that they are too reliant on those supplies and there are no immediate alternatives.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years – said the central European country is far too dependent on Russian gas and oil.
According to Hungarian government spokesman Kovacs, 65 percent of Hungary’s oil and 85 percent of its gas supplies come from Russia.
Despite disagreement among EU members on new energy sanctions, on Tuesday European Council President Charles Michel pledged to “break the Russian war machine” by steering countries on the continent away from Russia’s natural gas supplies.
The bloc is racing to secure alternative supplies to Russian energy, placing priority on global liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from countries that include major producers like Algeria, Qatar and the United States.
That includes LNG facilities being built in northern Greece, which Michel and the leaders of four Balkan countries toured on Tuesday.
“We are also sanctioning Russia to put financial, economic and political pressure on the Kremlin because our goal is simple: We must break the Russian war machine,” Michel said.
He met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the leaders of Bulgaria, North Macedonia and non-NATO member Serbia at the Greek port of Alexandroupolis. An LNG import terminal near the port city is due to start operation next year.
LNG that arrives by ship is becoming increasingly important as EU countries look to move away from Russian supplies. Russia last week cut off natural gas to Bulgaria and Poland, citing their refusal to pay in Russian roubles, in an escalating dispute triggered by the invasion of Ukraine.
“This is why this new LNG terminal is so timely and so important. It’s a geopolitical investment and this is a geopolitical moment,” Michel said. “It reflects what we need to do more of because it will provide security of supply to Greece, to Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia and other countries in the region. And this is extremely important.”