Hungary remains committed to EU efforts to phase out Russian oil


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BRUSSELS – The European Union has not finished talking about Russian oil. It has not been purchased.

In Monday morning’s talks, EU ambassadors again failed to reach an agreement to phase out oil imports from Russia due to persistent opposition from Hungary, and to keep the issue on the EU agenda – and Russian oil flows into Europe – for at least another day. .

This issue now threatens to overshadow the two-day European Council summit The war in Ukraine which begins on Monday afternoon in Brussels, where European Union leaders will discuss a watered-down plan that bans seaborne shipments but excludes pipeline oil.

A senior EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to brief the press, said the European Council hoped to reach a political agreement on the revised proposal on Monday. It is not yet clear whether all 27 leaders will sign.

On reaching the summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he had seen the revised proposal and there was no agreement on it yet. He welcomed the decision to exempt pipeline oil – an initially Hungarian request – but said he also needed guarantees that his country’s supplies of Russian oil would be protected if something happened to the pipeline that runs through Ukraine to Hungary.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Monday that there will be an agreement — eventually. “My expectations are low that it will be resolved within the next 48 hours,” she told reporters upon her arrival at the summit in Brussels.

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The EU failed again on 30 May to reach an agreement to phase out oil imports from Russia due to persistent opposition from Hungary. (Video: Reuters)

As the summit kicked off, EU leaders heard a closed virtual speech from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. European Council President Charles Michel thanked Zelensky for his “honest” remarks. “We will boost your liquidity and help you rebuild Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to enhance your ability to defend your people and your country.”

While EU officials and leaders wish to keep the focus on EU support for Ukraine, They will not be able to escape the fact that Europe continues to buy large quantities of Russian oil, which keeps the money flowing into the Kremlin.

Since the all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine, member states have been trying to find ways to get rid of Russian fossil fuels while securing enough energy to keep the lights on across Europe. They agreed to phase out coal, but the oil talks have been tougher and have now been put on hold for weeks by Urban.

Orbán compared an EU oil embargo to throwing a “nuclear bomb” on his country’s economy and insisted on more time and money to modernize his landlocked country’s oil infrastructure. Although there is a willingness to grant concessions to Hungary and other countries that rely heavily on Russian pipelines, the Hungarian leader has been granted extensions but continues to push for more, according to EU officials and diplomats.

Some express concern that Orban – one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe – appears to be using the situation to deter EU officials from withholding economic recovery funds for Hungary and Threatens to cut billions in subsidies for a democratic retreat.

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The latest proposal on the table calls for a ban on seaborne deliveries, but excludes pipeline shipments for now, keeping oil flowing from Russia to many EU countries, including Hungary, according to a draft proposal obtained by The Washington Post. Post. The draft does not specify a timeline for the exemption.

The pipeline exemption would mitigate the impact of the oil measures. An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to brief the press, said the phase-out of all seaborne deliveries would affect about two-thirds of imports.

The exemption for pipeline oil allows continuous supply through Drogba’s network, which passes through Belarus to Poland and then to Germany, and from Ukraine to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Since Poland and Germany have already pledged to ditch Russian oil this year, the bloc could in theory cut even more.

However, there is no doubt that the settlement – and the message it sends – is a boon to Russia, which has caused many in Brussels to ask questions about what went wrong.

Several EU officials and diplomats have tried to downplay Hungary’s role, describing the challenges as technical rather than political.

In an effort to move quickly, EU officials and diplomats have failed to look closely enough at what the oil might mean for member states that get most or all of their oil, said a senior EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. . Russia.

“Under the pressure of this war, we took some steps very early and now we are facing the consequences,” the senior diplomat said.

Others see the issue as inherently political – and it’s all about Orbán. “When something is ceded to Hungary, they ask for something else,” said another EU diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

“Let’s see what happens with Urban tonight,” the diplomat added. He is the decision maker.