‘Huge loss of face for EU’ Katya Adler on Putin rubbing hands over oil sanctions chaos

EU proposal for ban on Russian gas blocked by Orban says expert

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The Europe Editor warned that if the bloc dropped its plans to issue an embargo on Russian oil, as proposed in the EU Commission’s latest package of sanctions, it would give Vladimir Putin a “big boost”.

Pointing out Hungary is currently the only country opposing the proposal, Dr Adler said: “Will the EU have to drop its long publicly-debated ban on Russian oil imports?

“It’d be a huge loss of face for EU and a big boost for Putin, if so.

“EU ambassadors meet today to discuss sanctions ahead of next week’s summit of EU leaders.

“Big spoke in wheels is Budapest. Mood is dark.”

The European Commission this month proposed new sanctions against Russia but they require the unanimous support of all 27 EU member states and Hungary has blocked them.

In a letter to the President of the European Council, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the sanctions should not even be discussed at next week’s summit of the bloc’s leaders.

Mr Orban reiterated his stance that “solutions must come before sanctions”.

“Looking at the gravity of the issues still open, it is very unlikely that a comprehensive solution could be found before the special meeting of the European Council on 30-31 May,” he said.

“I am convinced that discussing the sanctions package at the level of leaders in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive.”

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Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil, has said it would need about 750 million euros in short-term investments to upgrade refineries and expand a pipeline bringing oil from Croatia.

It also said the longer-term conversion of its economy away from Russian oil could cost as much as 15-18 billion euros.

The Commission last week offered up to 2 billion euros in support to countries that are land-locked and reliant on Russian supply – Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

They have also been offered a longer transition period.

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But Mr Orban said there had been “encouraging signals” from the European Commission that the EU’s REPowerEU Plan would provide a satisfactory solution to Hungary’s problems, but added that “the plan presented on 18 May fails to specifically and comprehensively address the serious concerns we have raised.”

Hungary remains committed to continuing the talks, he said.

An oil embargo, already imposed by the United States and Britain, is widely seen as the best way to reduce Russian income for its war in Ukraine.

The EU has banned Russian coal.

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