Why is Hungary not backing EU sanctions on Russian oil?

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Why is Hungary not backing EU sanctions on Russian oil?

Hungary, which depends on Russia for the bulk of its oil and gas needs, says sanctions will adversely affect its economy.

Energy deals “must be left out of the sanctions issue, because otherwise we will pay the price of the war, and nobody wants that,” Orban recently told Hungarian media [File: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters]
Since taking power in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has deepened Hungary’s dependency on Russian energy and says its geography and energy infrastructure make a shutdown of Russian oil impossible [File: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters]

Published On 10 May 202210 May 2022

As the European Union tries to impose sanctions on Russian oil over the war in Ukraine, Hungary has emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to unanimous support needed from the bloc’s 27 member nations.

The president of the EU’s executive commission, Ursula von der Leyen, last week proposed phasing out imports of Russian crude within six months and refined products by the end of the year to wean Europe off its dependence on Russian fossil fuels and cut off a lucrative source of income that helps fund Russia’s war.

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But Hungary’s nationalist government – one of the most friendly to Moscow in the EU – insists it will not support any sanctions that target Russian energy exports.

Hungary is heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas and says the EU oil boycott would be an “atomic bomb” for its economy and destroy its “stable energy supply”.

Von der Leyen made a surprise trip to Hungary’s capital on Monday for negotiations with Prime Minister Viktor Orban to try to salvage the proposal, but no agreement has yet been reached.

Here’s what to know about the talks and what comes next:https://www.youtube.com/embed/MNU7RH2yhTY?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

What is Hungary saying?

Hungary’s government has insisted it will block any EU sanctions proposals that include Russian energy, calling it a “red line” that opposes Hungary’s interests. It gets 85 percent of its natural gas and more than 60 percent of its oil from Russia.

Orban, widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest EU allies, has reluctantly supported previous EU sanctions on Moscow, including an embargo on Russian coal. But he has argued that such moves hurt the bloc more than they do Russia.

Since taking power in 2010, Orban has deepened Hungary’s dependency on Russian energy and says its geography and energy infrastructure make a shutdown of Russian oil impossible.

“We said that sanctions on coal would be all right because they don’t affect Hungary; but now we really have reached a red line, a double line, because the oil and gas embargo would ruin us,” Orban said in a radio interview on Friday.

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