The European Union’s plans on the sixth sanctions package against Russia could be further delayed as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused to discuss the topic of the oil embargo at the upcoming leaders’ summit.
In a letter sent to Charles Michel, president of the European Council, Orban said Hungary cannot support the bloc’s sanctions package without having more details on EU financial help for his landlocked country to replace Russian energy dependency, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
“Discussing the sanctions package at the level of leaders in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive,” Orban was quoted as saying by the daily.
The talks “would only highlight our internal divisions without offering a realistic chance to resolve differences. Therefore, I propose not to address this issue at the next European Council,” he added.
According to the newspaper, Orban argued that the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan does not provide dedicated “envelopes for the most concerned landlocked member states” or details on “the financing for the urgent investment needs related to replacing Russian oil.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to EU reporters, an EU official confirmed having received the letter, but said the summit’s agenda is “in progress” since Michel is consulting with all EU leaders.
Next week’s EU summit was expected to bring a breakthrough for stalled negotiations on the sixth sanctions package against Russia.
Other EU countries, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, have also voiced concerns over the European Commission’s proposal on banning Russian oil imports, but Hungary has been the most vocal and persistent about refusing the plan.
Last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that his country expects €15-18 billion ($16-19 billion) in support from the EU budget to modernize the country’s energy infrastructure and to compensate for the rising petrol prices after cutting Russian oil imports.
In case the EU cannot financially support the country, he said, Hungary will be needing a full opt-out from the oil embargo otherwise his government will not support the sixth sanctions package.
In early May, the European Commission proposed a sixth set of sanctions that suggested, in addition to the ban on Russian oil imports, the exclusion of Sberbank from the international payment system SWIFT, as well as the imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on more individuals, including Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.
Last week, the EU executive body revealed its €210 billion REPowerEU plan to reduce dependency on Russian energy and to cut gas imports by two-thirds by the end of this year by accelerating the green transition into renewables and securing fossil fuel supply./aa