N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Last week the 1st Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, presented with much fanfare a €210 billion plan REPowerEU, aimed at ditching Russian fossil fuels by 2027. While the plan has been greeted by most member states, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, the proposal failed to address Hungary’s concerns.
In recent weeks Hungary has emerged already as the EU’s disrupter on punitive measures against Russia over the war in Ukraine, opposing an embargo on Russian oil, also proposed by the Commission as a part of the so called Sixth Package of EU Sanctions. Orban made clear, he will not drop this opposition any time soon.
Hungary, relying on Russian oil from a single pipeline, has demanded an exemption from the embargo and wants €800 million in funds to re-tool a refinery and boost the capacity of a pipeline to Croatia. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto appeared to up the price tag for ditching Russian oil by saying it would cost €15 to €18 billion to modernise Hungary’s energy structure.
EU sanctions require unanimous agreement. Orban’s behaviour is frustrating ‘Brussels’ and other Eastern European member states, which want to cut down on flows of European cash to fund Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In this context it is bizarre to read a heading on the frontpage of the Financial Times: ‘Sanctions result in Italy quadrupling Russian oil imports since war began’. In the article: ‘Italy has increased its imports of Russian crude in an unintended consequence of western sanctions against the Kremlin and despite EU efforts to end ties to Russian energy’.
The wonderful European Union…