VDL left empty-handed as EU chief fails to convince Orban after nuclear bomb claim

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

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The Hungarian leader is opposing a new sanctions package against Russia which would see EU states quitting Russian oil. In a bid to convince Mr Orban, the EU Commission President travelled to Budapest on Monday.

The EU chief, however, returned empty-handed as despite claiming “progress was made” in the meeting, the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó who was also present said there was still a lot to be discussed.

In a video shared on Facebook, he said that Ms von der Leyen was briefed on the effects that the sanctions package would have on his country.

He described the sanctions as the “equivalent to dropping a nuclear bomb on the Hungarian economy”, echoing the words of Mr Orban in an interview last week.

After the meeting, Ms von der Leyen said: “This evening’s discussion with PM Viktor Orban was helpful to clarify issues related to sanctions and energy security.

“We made progress, but further work is needed.”

She added she would convene a video conference with other countries in the region to strengthen regional cooperation on oil infrastructure.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said European Union members could reach a deal this week on the EU Commission’s proposal to ban all oil imports from Russia.

“I think we could strike a deal this week,” he told LCI television, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron was due to talk to Mr Orban later today.

Hungary is the most vocal critic of this planned embargo on Russian oil.

The European Commission is considering offering landlocked eastern European Union states more money to upgrade oil infrastructure in a bid to convince them to agree to an embargo on Russian oil.

The measures are part of a wider package of new sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but the adoption of the legal text still needs an agreement on the size of the investment, the source said, adding another sticking point was Cyprus’s concerns about a proposed ban on the sale of real estate to Russians.

Horse trading after the Commission put forward its original sanctions document last week has delayed approval and the text has already been revised once to try to win over sceptics.

A new version, currently being drafted, is likely to drop a ban on EU tankers carrying Russian oil, after pressure from Greece, Cyprus and Malta, the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

EU companies would, however, be prevented from offering insurance and other financial services for the transport of Russian oil worldwide, the source added, noting that on this point the original proposal would remain unchanged.

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Whereas most EU states will have to fully implement a Russian oil embargo by the end of the year, Hungary – the most vocal critics of the new sanctions package – has already obtained an exemption until the end of 2024, as has Slovakia, and the Czech Republic would have until mid-2024.

The three countries are the only eastern EU states with no access to the sea, and therefore risk a bigger economic impact from banning Russian oil.

EU officials say their concerns are legitimate and are now considering spending more than initially planned to upgrade and extend pipelines that would deliver oil from other EU countries.

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