Orbán Doesn’t Even Want EU Leaders To Talk About His Blockade Of The Russian Oil Embargo

It not only blocks sanctions. He also wants to block the debate. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sent a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in which he asks him not to address the debate on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia at the summit on May 30 and 31. A package of sanctions that Orbán himself has been blocking for four weeks because it includes the embargo on Russian oil. And Orbán does not want that embargo, as he already announced the day after he was re-elected.

The Hungarian government argues for technical reasons, which have to do with its extreme dependence on Russia, as extreme as its difficulty in finding alternative supplies. But in Brussels they also suspect that his position has to do with being the best ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the EU and, furthermore, with the fact that Brussels has blocked its recovery plan due to its authoritarian and homophobic drift, which has also the fact that the European Commission activates for the first time in history the conditionality mechanism for European money, which links the funds to respect for the rule of law.

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Hungary asks for money to speed up the energy disengagement from Russia, but is also interested in unlocking the money withheld by its authoritarianism.

“Discussing the sanctions package at the leadership level in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive,” Orbán wrote in the letter sent to Charles Michel and whose content has been revealed. by Financial Times. “It would only highlight our internal divisions without offering a realistic opportunity to resolve differences. Therefore, I propose not to address this issue at the next European Council.”

Diplomatic sources have confirmed that Michel had received Orbán’s letter and reported that the president of the European Council was consulting “all leaders” in preparation for next week’s extraordinary summit, whose agenda is expected to include energy, defense and the war in Ukraine.

While unanimity is required to approve EU sanctions, in Brussels there is increasing thought of the possibility of seeking a plan B if the technical work of the European Commission to guarantee alternative supplies to Hungary from neighboring countries as well as speed up their own infrastructures for it –which means money– do not bear fruit. Hungary imports 60% of its oil and 85% of its gas from Russia.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has ruled out reaching an agreement on a ban on Russian oil imports at next week’s European Council. In an interview with Politico, Von der Leyen has said that he did not want to generate “false expectations” that an agreement would be reached 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. We are talking about landlocked countries that need alternative pipeline supply, so we have to talk about investment in pipelines to increase supply, and refineries that need to be upgraded, as well as investment and renewable energy.”

The toughest being the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, who a few days ago said at a meeting of EU Foreign Min isters: “The EU is being taken hostage by a Member State that cannot find a way to to help. One of the solutions could be to help Ukraine disassociate itself from Russian oil and gas, because the Member State that cannot help us find a consensus depends on Ukraine’s supply. If the supply from Ukraine were stopped, the issue of sanctions would be resolved. We have to agree, we can’t be hostages. The European Commission offered solutions, we were talking about the moratorium on the oil embargo ending on December 31, 2024, in two and a half years. Everyone hoped that this would be enough. And I can’t explain why it isn’t. Decisions will be remembered by how we conduct ourselves today.”

Plan B pointed it out Borrell a few days ago in various European media, including The country: “If there is someone who does not want to participate, others can. Unanimity is not needed to act voluntarily, following a plan. They can decide to act according to a collective decision, which is not officially an EU decision. It will not be unanimously, but they can act on their side. It is what is happening now [con los países Bálticos] and it’s working. It will have no effect tomorrow, it is a reduction path. Germany has assured that it will get rid of Russian oil by the end of the year. And Russia gets much more money from oil than from gas. It is already happening. The decrease in oil bought from Russia is very important. And we are replacing the gas with another from different sources. When Germany says that by the end of the year there will be no more Russian oil, it is making a big effort.”

Last week, the commission presented a €210 billion plan called REPowerEU, which sets out proposals to ditch Russian fossil fuels by 2027. Although optimistic signs had been circulated regarding the plan, Orbán in his letter says the plan did not address Hungary’s concerns that “there are no envelopes [de financiación] for the non-coastal Member States most affected [Hungría, Eslovaquia y República Checa]”.

He added: “There are no indications on the modalities and the timing of the financing of the urgent investment needs related to the substitution of Russian oil.” In his letter published by the Financial Times, Orbán warned that the proposed sanctions would cause “serious supply problems” in Hungary and undermine its vital energy security interests, causing a “price shock” to households and the country’s economy.

Orbán insists that Hungary needed money to convert its refineries to non-Russian oil and build new pipelines to bring alternative supplies to the country.

Brussels has earmarked €2 billion for central European nations to invest in new infrastructure, but decided to channel it through the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF), and Hungary has not yet reached an agreement with the Commission on its share of the RRF due to EU concerns about violations of the rule of law.

Orbán’s letter speaks of “serious problems” because “countries without recovery and resilience plans cannot benefit” from the bulk of the REPowerEU project in the short term. However, he also says that he will continue discussions “with a pragmatic and results-oriented approach.”

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