Hungary wants Russian oil ban off the agenda at EU meet

  • Market: Crude oil, Oil products
  • 25/05/22

Hungary has asked EU leaders not to discuss the bloc's proposed Russian oil embargo at their European Council meeting next week as it "would run the serious danger of dismantling European unity", Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said Wednesday.

It is unlikely that the European Commission will have time to come up with a solution to the difficulties that an embargo would cause Hungary's economy before the council meets, Szijjarto said.

"This problem was created by the European Commission, so the solution must be also proposed by the European Commission," he said. "We see it unrealistic that such a comprehensive solution will be proposed this week."

Szijjarto reiterated that Hungary will oppose an EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports as long as "it makes the country's energy supply impossible". He has previously said that reconfiguring Hungary's 161,000 b/d Szazhalombatta refinery to run solely on non-Russian crude will cost €500mn-550mn and that a further €200mn would need to be spent on boosting pipeline capacity to ensure Hungary has enough alternative supply to Russian Urals.

"The European Council had a decision in Versailles that eliminating dependence on Russian energy sources should always take into account the different energy supply structures of the EU member countries. That didn't happen," Szijjarto said, adding that the European Commission has "no right" to take a different position to the European Council.

The European Commission is the EU's executive arm, responsible for drafting laws and drawing up proposals for new legislation, while the European Council is made up of the heads of state or government of the 27 EU member states.

Hungary's reluctance to discuss the Russian oil ban at the upcoming council meeting dampens prospects for an imminent deal, although senior EU officials remain upbeat. "I'm still confident that we can resolve the topic before the European Council," the council's president Charles Michel said during a visit to Sweden today.

Michel acknowledged that agreeing to phase out Russian oil imports requires a "lot of dialogue" and political effort. "We're working very hard to stay united, but also to take decisions," said Michel. "Is it easy? No. I sincerely hope that we'll be able again to show that we're united," he said.

German economy minister Robert Habeck said on 24 May that the EU could agree an embargo on Russian oil within a few days. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she is "hoping" an agreement might be reached in "days", although she later told news service Politico that the oil ban might not be an "appropriate" topic for EU leaders due to its technical nature.

The European Council is due to meet on 30-31 May


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