Hungary Keeps Blocking EU Oil Import Ban on Russia

On their meeting on Monday, the EU foreign ministers failed to convince Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed oil import ban on Russia. Lithuania said the bloc was being held hostage by one member state.

EU’s oil import ban on Russia that was first proposed by the European Commission in early May would be the bloc’s harshest sanctions on Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The proposal includes carve-outs for members that are the most dependent on Russian oil.

Germany said it wants a deal to authorize the oil ban, which it argues could last for years. Germany is the EU’s biggest economy and a major buyer of Russian energy.

EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell said the ministers failed to reach an agreement on Monday. Ambassadors are now charged with negotiating an agreement.

Borrell said Hungary’s arguments have been based on economic and not political concerns.

He added that the foreign ministers agreed to provide €500 million in support of Kyiv for arms purchases. The EU has so far provided a total of €2 billion to Ukraine for that purpose.

The member states will meet once again on a May 30-31 summit to reach an agreement on phased ban on Russian oil over six months. Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic are expected to have a longer transition period.

German Foreign Minister Baerbock said she was confident of reaching a deal in the coming days.

Hungary is known as Kremlin’s closest ally within the EU and the government said it needed hundreds of millions of euros from the bloc to mitigate the costs of banning Russian oil. The EU needs a unanimous decision of all 27 members to agree to an embargo for it to go ahead.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Landsbergis argued the bloc was being held hostage by one member, adding that they have to agree not to be held hostage.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Szijjarto said his country has not received any new proposal from the European Commission regarding the oil sanctions since its president visited Budapest earlier this month.

Szijjarto blamed the European Commission for causing a problem with the proposal so Hungary had the right to ask for a solution to finance the investments and compensate for the resulting price rises. He claimed that Hungary’s energy structure needed a modernization of €15-€18 billion because of the possible price rises.

Borrell questioned those numbers, saying Szijjarto had spoken of much lower figures during the ministers’ meeting on Monday.

An oil embargo, already imposed by the United States and Britain and which would follow five rounds of earlier EU sanctions, 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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