Current proposals regarding the European Commission’s sixth sanctions package against Russia in respect of gas and oil supplies are unacceptable, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, said in Brussels during a break in a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Hungary has proposed exempting oil pipeline deliveries in the case of an EU oil embargo, the minister told Hungarian journalists. This, he added, would be the simplest solution, meeting the needs of Brussels without putting countries that receive oil by pipeline “in an extremely difficult position”, he added. Szijjártó vowed that the Hungarian government would never let Hungarians pay the price of war in terms of their security, be it physical, energy or economic.
The European Commission, “while it is aware of Hungary’s interests, its sensitive points and its position, has made a proposal that inherently involves the possibility of compromising EU unity,” Szijjártó said. The proposal could mean “nothing less than a nuclear bomb for the Hungarian economy”, and if passed “the country and its economy would become impossible to operate in a physical sense”, he said.
Concerning the economic and environmental aspects of the proposal, Szijjártó said: “Brussels expects Hungary to invest many hundreds of millions of euros in its crude oil infrastructure” while urging the abandonment of fossil fuels and promoting renewables. “Could anyone seriously think that we should make an investment of 280 billion forints just to increase the price of fuels by 55-60% and contribute to general inflation?” he said. Threatening to shut down pipelines “is unacceptable”, Szijjártó said. “It is unacceptable that some are seeking to make the lives of innocent people difficult through such measures, cutting off energy from countries that are not to blame for the war,” he said. “It is legitimate to expect such measures not to be taken,” he added.
The meeting of European Union foreign ministers concluded without a decision being passed regarding a planned embargo of Russian oil, Szijjártó said later in the day, adding that the Hungarian government maintained stance against the proposal.
“Nobody should expect Hungarian people to pay the price of war in Ukraine,” he said.
According to a statement from the foreign ministry, the Hungarian government awaits proposals from the European Commission aimed at preventing difficulties the new package of sanctions would generate for the Hungarian economy. The sanctions, if passed in their current form, would cause “huge damage” to the Hungarian economy, hobbling investments worth several hundred million euros, as well as provoking a 55-60% increase in the price of fuels and higher inflation in general, the statement said.
Talks so far have made it clear that “we are not likely to receive a proposal aimed at eliminating such damage to the entire economy”, the statement quoted Szijjártó as saying. If the EU is determined to impose sanctions on Russian oil imports, it should make an exemption on pipeline transit shipments, Szijjártó said, adding that most Russian oil was delivered to Europe by sea and the sanctions could remain effective despite such an exemption.
Szijjártó said no new proposals were made on Monday but talks would continue.