Talks are taking place in Brussels on Friday to change a draft European embargo on Russian oil, while Hungary still blocks the text.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sharpened his tone on Friday, saying the European Commission’s proposal to ban purchases of oil and petroleum products from Russia by the end of the year undermines EU unity. “We made it clear from the start that there is a red line, namely the energy embargo. You’ve crossed that line,” he said in a radio interview.
Negotiations at the level of member states’ ambassadors are “complicated,” said a diplomat. Unanimity of the 27 is required for sanctions to be passed. “The problem with sanctions is that the agreement has to go through the capitals,” a diplomat said after Viktor Orban’s statement.
exemption in question
The proposal, presented to member states on Wednesday, calls for a halt to imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022. It grants Hungary and Slovakia, two landlocked countries, a one-year waiver until the end of 2023 on shipments via the Druzhba pipeline. The duration of this exception was considered insufficient by Hungary and Slovakia. In addition, the Czech Republic has applied to benefit from it.
The duration of the exemption was extended to the end of 2024 in the new version of the project discussed on Friday, and the Czech Republic is also given this option, it said. “But we have moved from derogations to a request for derogations, which pushes the cork a little too far,” underscored one diplomat.
Extensive sanctions package
The inclusion of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a clear supporter of the Russian offensive, among the new figures on the EU blacklist is also controversial. The sixth package also targets the financial sector, excluding the main Russian bank Sberkank (37% of the Russian market) and two other entities of the international financial system Swift. And three Russian TV channels, including Russia 24 and Russia RTR, will be banned from broadcasting in the EU, according to the document seen by AFP.
“Time is running out,” said one diplomat. “I think an agreement can be found by Sunday,” said one of his counterparts. The aim is for the sixth package of European sanctions to come into force to celebrate the 72nd day of Europe on May 9th. This date is also celebrated in Russia as “Victory Day” over Nazi Germany.