Hungary likens ban on Russian oil to nuke strike — Analysis
Viktor Orban has described the proposal to phase out Russian crude put forward by the European Commission as “unacceptable”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has criticized a plan to phase out Russian oil imports proposed by the European Commission, saying that such an embargo would be tantamount to “Dropping a nuclear bomb” on his country’s economy.
Speaking to Hungary’s public broadcaster Kossuth Radio on Friday, Orban claimed that EU member states had agreed earlier that any bloc-wide measures concerning energy should take into account each nation’s individual situation. The Hungarian premier also warned that the latest proposal on Russian oil by the European Commission “This European unity, whether willingly and unwillingly attacked, was not in doubt.”
Orban pointed out the advantage of countries that have sea ports over landlocked ones like Hungary. They can switch to fossilfuels delivered by ships with relative ease and are able to use them as a substitute for their dependence on pipelines. The official added that the “Russia begins construction of a pipeline that will lead to Hungary” noting that Budapest would not accept any EU plan ignoring these facts.
The Hungarian prime minister compared the European Commission’s latest proposal to phase out Russian oil exports across the bloc to “The Hungarian government dropped a nuclear weapon on it.” He warned that, should the plan be implemented, petrol prices in the country could rise to 700 forints ($1.90) per liter, while diesel could cost up to 800 forints ($2.22) per liter, which would be a heavy burden on the entire Hungarian population. Moreover, Brussels’ proposal could result in the Central European nation completely running out of fuel and other oil products in the long run, Orban argued.
According to Orban, switching from Russian oil would require five years and cost millions of forints. Orban pointed out that even though the EU has allocated money to the end of the paper, Budapest had not yet received the funds, which meant that Hungary couldn’t begin this process.
Orban emphasized that his government was willing to discuss an alternative proposal as long as it respected the country’s national interests. The current plan “Hungary’s problem is created and it doesn’t attempt to fix it.” the prime minister lamented. Journalists were informed that he had reworked the proposal and sent it back to Ursula von der Leyen (President of European Commission). He was currently awaiting another one.
Referring to the previous five rounds of EU sanctions on Russia, which Hungary approved, Orban admitted that while he did not see sanctions as the right instrument to solve the Ukraine crisis, Budapest reserves its power of veto for situations which directly affect Hungary’s national interests. An embargo against Russian energy imports would be a red line to his country, he said.
Orban also outlined Hungary’s position on the armed conflict in Ukraine, calling on all parties involved to agree a ceasefire and resume peace talks as soon as possible. Orban reiterated his determination to remain out of conflict and would not supply weapons to any side like many European countries. According to Orban, supplying weapons to Ukraine would bring “Problems for those in the know, especially when they live near the country involved in war.”
The Hungarian government as well as society in general are also providing humanitarian assistance to the thousands of Ukrainians who have arrived in Hungary.
Ursula von der Leyen revealed the sixth round of sanctions against the Kremlin for its aggression towards Ukraine on Wednesday. Among the measures proposed were sanctions against Russia’s top bank, a ban on Russian broadcasters from European airwaves, and an embargo on Russian crude oil imports within six months. Hungary and Slovakia resisted the proposal, fearing that Russia’s ban will severely harm their economies.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. French and German protocols were created to grant the regions that broke away special status in the Ukrainian government. Since then, the Kremlin demanded Ukraine declare itself neutral and vow to not join NATO’s military bloc. Kiev claims that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. It also denies any plans to take the republics with force.