Germany urges VDL to leave Hungary behind as row with Orban over Russia oil ban deepens

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

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German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has warned Hungary against blocking efforts to impose a European Union-wide embargo on Russian oil imports in response to the war in Ukraine. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said: “There are different solutions for different countries. I expect everyone, including Hungary to work on a solution.”

Earlier on Monday, the minister told German radio that he was disappointed the EU had not yet found agreement on the planned oil embargo, which has been in the works for weeks now, and that Germany would be willing to forego Hungary’s participation to speed up the process.

“If the Commission president says we’re doing this as 26 without Hungary, then that is a path that I would always support,” Habeck told the Deutschlandfunk broadcaster.

“But I have not yet heard this from the EU,” he added.

Among the 27 EU member states, Hungary is the most vocal critic of the planned embargo on Russian oil.

The Commission has proposed phasing out Russian oil imports by the end of the year in most EU member states, while Hungary and others could be given more time.

But Budapest, Moscow’s closest ally in the EU, has said it wants hundreds of millions of euros from the bloc to mitigate the cost of ditching Russian crude.

The EU needs all 27 states to agree to the embargo for it to go ahead.

Hungary on Monday stuck to its demands for energy investment before it agrees to a Russian oil embargo, clashing with EU states pushing for swift approval of more European Union sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.

“Solutions first, sanctions afterwards,” Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga told journalists ahead of ministerial talks in Brussels on Monday.

That clashed with calls from several governments for a deal before a summit of the EU’s leaders on May 30.

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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 to expand a pipeline bringing oil from Croatia.

It has also indicated that in the longer run the conversion of its economy away from Russian oil could cost as much as 18 billion euros.

The Commission last week offered up to 2 billion euros in support to land-locked central and eastern European countries that lack access to non-Russian supply – effectively Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

These states have also been offered a longer transition period to wean themselves off Russian oil.

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To address longer-term concerns, the Commission has published a 210 billion euro plan meant to end Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027 but has not indicated how the new investments would be shared among EU states.

One of the key stumbling blocks remains the amount the EU is ready to pay to Hungary to adapt two refineries that at the moment can only process Russian crude, an official told Reuters on Monday, confirming one of the key issues causing the deadlock.

At a meeting of EU diplomats last week, several envoys, including those from France, Lithuania, Belgium and Ireland, urged a compromise before the EU summit next week to avoid a political escalation of the controversy, diplomats said.

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