Hungary threatens veto as EU works to ban Russian oil
Hungary is pursuing a veto on the European Union's measures against Russia due to the ramifications such decision would have on its economy and energy sector and not wanting to fall into the same hole the US is in.
Hungary would be ready to veto EU sanctions on the Russian oil industry if the measures restricted Budapest's ability to import energy, a senior official in Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government said Monday.
The European Commission will be proposing a ban on Russian oil by the end of the year over the war in Ukraine, and Brussels will be gradually introducing restrictions on imports until then, Bloomberg had reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Hungary is heavily reliant on Russian energy to fuel its economy, which prompted Budapest to swat any attempts to up sanctions on Moscow. Orban's government has been very vocal about the ramifications of a ban on access to Russian oil and natural gas, warning against such action.
"Since such decisions require unanimity, it makes no sense for the commission to propose sanctions affecting natural gas and crude oil that would restrict Hungarian procurements," Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said Sunday.
Countries heavily reliant on Russian energy, such as Hungary, may get some more flexibility so they can be more accepting of new sanctions on Russia, a person familiar with the matter said.
Hungary's position on imposing sanctions on Russian oil and gas "hasn't changed, we don't support it," government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs said in a Facebook post on Monday. German ZDF reported Sunday that Hungary and Austria had lifted their veto threats, a matter Kovacs refuted.
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Monday there was still no unity among EU member states about an oil embargo.
"I don’t know whether an oil embargo is imminent," he told reporters. "I hear different things and talk to my colleagues about different options. Other countries are not that far along and I think you have to respect that."
According to Habeck, Germany would be able to handle such an embargo, though he did warn that it might still result in disruptions. "We have created a situation in which Germany can withstand an oil embargo. This means that the country will not be left without a trace."
Orban had earlier called sanctions on Russian energy his "red line", while his government agreed with Russia on allowing the conversion of their gas payments in rubles. Over this decision, Russia's Gazprom announced the suspension of gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland due to the non-payment of dues in rubles.
Russian energy giant Gazprom announced on Wednesday that it had completely suspended gas supplies to Bulgaria's largest natural gas distribution company Bulgargaz and Polish oil and gas company PGNiG, as the companies failed to pay for gas in rubles.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stated on Wednesday that Russia's decision to halt gas supplies to Bulgaria would have no effect on transit to Hungary.
Budapest had agreed with Russia to allow the conversion of their gas payments to rubles, testing the EU's sanctions policy. That, in addition to their refusal to deliver weapons to Ukraine, got Prime Minister Orban added to the notorious Kiev-based Myrotvorets database as an "anti-Ukrainian propagandist."
On Sunday, Gulya said nine other European countries have opened accounts in Russian banks under Moscow's scheme to accept gas payments in rubles, but they do not want to announce the move to the public
The European Union energy ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss Russia's demands for natural gas to be purchased in rubles, and they are likely to discuss sanctions on Russian oil too.
Discussions for such measures are underway due to Russia launching a special military operation in Ukraine for several reasons, including NATO's eastward expansion, the Ukrainian shelling of Donbass, and the killing of the people of the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic, in addition to Moscow wanting to "denazify" and demilitarize Ukraine.
In response, the US and its allies have rolled out comprehensive sanctions, including restrictions on the Russian central bank, export control measures, SWIFT cutoff for select banks, and closure of airspace to all Russian flights. Many of their companies have suspended their Russian operations.
The status-quo and the US sanctions on Russia have weakened US citizens' purchasing power, causing fuel prices to soar in the country with US oil prices reaching their all-time high following a ban on Russian fuel exports.