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War in Ukraine: how the European Union will impose the oil embargo on Russia

The Hungarian government remains the major obstacle for the European Union to approve its sixth package of sanctions on Russia, which includes a gradual ban on buying Russian crude oil and its derivatives, as well as the expulsion of Swift from Sberbank, the largest Russian bank. with 37% of its market.

Hungary refuses and assures that the proposal on the table is an “economic atomic bomb”.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government says its energy dependency on Russia has no alternatives and that turning off those taps would endanger the country’s security.

Orban is partly right (he has very few connections beyond those that connect Hungary with Russia through Ukraine) and the European Commission, in its draft sanctions, had foreseen a longer period than the rest of the countries, of up to two years and a half in the Hungarian case, to stop buying Russian oil and look for alternatives.

The president of the European Commission, Úrsula Von der Leyen, traveled urgently to Budapest on Monday night to convince Orban but returned to Brussels with “progress”, but without the green light from the Hungarian.

The Bulgartransgaz gas plant in Ihtiman, Bulgaria, to which Russia cut off power delivery in late April. Photo: AFP

After the meeting in Budapest, Von der Leyen should have organized a videoconference with the heads of government of Hungary’s neighboring countries on Tuesday, but he gave up because Orban showed no signs of giving in.

The new proposalto

So the executive arm of the European Union is now studying going a little further and finance Hungarian energy diversification with European funds.

The European Commission must present (in principle next Wednesday the 18th) its energy strategy so that the bloc stops depending on Russia.

Also other suggestions like increase from 32% to 40% the use of renewable energies between now and 2030.

In that “RePower Europe” could already be included, they hope in the Von der Leyen environment, energy connections for Hungary to, for example, the Adriatic Sea through Croatia or to Austria, which is connected to Italy.

  The European gas pipeline network

Budapest is already connected to the Croatian coast (through the port of Rijeka) with an oil pipeline (Adria Oil) that in principle served to route Russian oil to Croatia and that could be invested but whose capacity would be insufficient.

Slovakia, which has the same energy isolation problems as Hungary, would receive similar treatment. Hungary and Slovakia would also be given up to two and a half years (until the end of 2024) to stop buying Russian oil. Czech Republic would have until June 2024.

The European Commission could tire of Orban’s attitude (he is President Vladimir Putin’s most faithful ally in Europe) and simply abandon the oil embargo as a sanction.

The other 26 could announce that they stop buying Russian oil, but Brussels believes it is essential to maintain the unity of the 27 in this matter because the sanctions are renewed each year unanimously.

The ambassadors of the 27 met Wednesday to try to advance the Hungarian blockade that delays the implementation of the sixth package of sanctions. No progress waiting for Budapest to be convinced when Brussels presents the financing proposal.

Meanwhile, some governments have been getting exceptions. EU sources say that the ban on trading Russian oil to third countries is no longer in the package, to the delight of Greek and Maltese shipping companies.

Brussels, special


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