Viktor Orban slams 'irresponsible' EU Commission over oil embargo
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Mr Orban, speaking ahead of a two-day European Union summit with all member states’ leaders, accused the Union of pushing embargoes and sanctions on Russia without considering “Hungarian oil supply and security”. The leader of the land-locked country is refusing to compromise on oil sanctions against Russia over fears that his country is not capable of coping with the financial and economic difficulties that would come with weaning itself off reliance on Russian energy. Hungary received more than half of its crude oil and oil products imports from Russia last year, according to the International Energy Agency.
Mr Orban said: “There is no compromise at this moment at all. I have just got the text now and there is no agreement, either. The problem is, you know, that we are in a very difficult situation.
“It’s all basically because of the irresponsible behaviour of the European Commission.
“Out of the blue, we have got the idea of embargoes and sanctions on oil without reacting to the question regarding the Hungarian oil supply and security issue.
“The whole situation we are in is a difficult one created by the Commission and the responsibility of not having an agreement today must be and will be on the shoulders of the Commission.
“The Hungarian position is very simple because energy is a serious issue. It’s not a kid’s game. It’s serious.
“So it means that first, we need solutions and then the sanctions. Up to now, the first five sanctions packages were approached in a different way.
“First we made the sanctions and then we started to think about the consequences and look for solutions.
“But because it’s energy, it’s risky, it’s serious, so therefore we have to change our approach. The proposal that we have is not good. We are ready to support the sixth package if there are solutions for the Hungarian energy supply and security.”
Asked how he would respond to accusations that he was acting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behalf, he shrugged and said: “Fake news”.
The EU leaders are in Brussels to discuss the European Commission’s proposal for the sixth round of Russian sanctions made on May 4, which included an import ban on all Russian oil – sea-borne and pipeline, crude oil, and refined products.
EU countries have paid Russia nearly 30 billion euros (£26 billion) for oil since February 24, when it launched what Moscow calls a “special military operation”, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
But reliance on Russian crude varies significantly between EU countries, and so does their ability to replace Russian supplies with alternatives.
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Hungary has been the main opponent. It says halting Russian oil imports would hurt its land-locked economy because it cannot easily get oil from elsewhere.
It has said they need financing to upgrade an oil pipeline from Croatia and switch its refineries to handle non-Russian oil.
The EU proposed a two billion euro fund to help Hungary, as well as the similarly land-locked Czech Republic and Slovakia, with this venture, as well as offering a longer transition period to cut Russian oil, but Hungary remains unconvinced.
It argued that it cannot readily access the proposed EU funding due to Brussels’ action against Budapest over the alleged undermining of EU democratic principles.
Mr Orban added today that any pipeline exemptions would also have to come with “guarantees in the case of an accident”, in case the Russian supply is cut off.
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