European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Budapest on Monday where she met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in a bid to persuade Hungary to sign an embargo on Russian oil. A final agreement has not been reached.
Ms von der Leyen’s unannounced visit came after a weekend of negotiations between Hungary and the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, over how Brussels would help Mr Orbán’s government restart the Hungarian energy system in order to wean itself off Russian oil.
On Monday, Hungary’s foreign minister said his government could not back the EU oil embargo, the centerpiece of the bloc’s latest sanctions package, because it would ‘destroy our stable energy supply’, according to a gatekeeper. – speech of the government. that Mrs von der Leyen’s trip would help convince Budapest to agree to an embargo.
“Tonight’s discussion with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been helpful in clarifying issues related to sanctions and energy security,” von der Leyen said on Twitter on Monday evening. “We have made progress, but more work is needed.”
The chair of the commission said she would be hosting a virtual call with regional leaders on oil infrastructure. No date was given.
There was no immediate comment from the Hungarian government on Monday’s talks. EU officials had hoped to get the sanctions package approved last week.
The Commission, with the support of other Member States, is ready to offer Hungary more time to stop importing Russian oil and guarantees and assistance to ensure that Hungary can find energy alternatives.
Last week, the European Commission circulated a sixth round of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The package proposed that EU member states stop importing Russian crude oil in six months and stop importing refined petroleum products by the end of the year. The sanctions need the support of all 27 member states.
The Commission has offered Hungary and Slovakia 20 months to stop importing Russian oil. These countries said that it was not enough time; and 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 wean off Russian oil. Bulgaria and Croatia are also asking for EU help or more time.
Years of tension between Mr Orbán, who recently won a sweeping re-election, and EU authorities are complicating talks with Hungary. This includes the EU withholding billions of euros in coronavirus recovery money due to its concerns over the rule of law in Hungary and a recent decision to potentially freeze future budget payments to Hungary. .
Mr. Orban has maintained close ties with Moscow and has refused to allow Western weapons to flow into Ukraine through his country, leading to friction with the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.