European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Headed to Budapest On Monday, where she met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to try to convince Hungary To sign an embargo on Russian oil. No final deal secured.
Ms von der Leyen’s previously unannounced visit came after a weekend of negotiations between Hungary and the European Commission, the EU’s executive, over the assistance that Brussels would provide to Mr Orban’s government to restart Hungary’s energy system to wean itself off Russian oil.
Hungary’s foreign minister said on Monday that his government could not support the European Union’s oil embargo, a cornerstone of the bloc’s latest sanctions package, because it would “destroy our stable energy supply,” according to a government spokesperson. However, there were hopes in Brussels that Mrs. von der Leyen’s trip would help persuade Budapest to accept the ban.
“This evening’s discussion with Prime Minister Viktor Orban was helpful in clarifying issues related to sanctions and energy security,” Ms von der Leyen said Monday evening on Twitter. “We have made progress but more work is needed.”
The commission chairperson said she would hold a virtual call with regional leaders on oil infrastructure. No date has been set.
There was no immediate comment from the Hungarian government on Monday’s talks. EU officials had hoped to win approval for the sanctions package last week.
And the Commission, with the support of other member states, is ready to give Hungary more time to halt the import of Russian oil, guarantees and help to ensure Hungary finds energy alternatives.
Last week, the European Commission distributed a sixth sanctions package against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The package proposed that EU member states stop importing Russian crude oil within six months and stop importing refined oil products by the end of the year. Sanctions need the support of all 27 member states.
The Commission offered Hungary and Slovakia 20 months to stop importing Russian oil. Those countries have said this is not enough time; In a revised proposal on Friday, the commission said it could give them until the end of 2024. The commission is also offering the Czech Republic two years to get rid of Russian oil. Bulgaria and Croatia are also seeking EU assistance or more time.
Talks with Hungary complicate years of tension between Mr Orban, who recently won his landslide re-election election, and EU authorities. This includes the European Union withholding billions of euros in coronavirus recovery funds over its concerns about the rule of law in Hungary and the recent move to freeze potential future budget payments for Hungary.
Mr. Orban maintained close ties with Moscow and refused to allow the supply of Western arms to Ukraine through his country, which led to friction with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.
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