Exclusive-EU's Breton tells Hungary to suspend discriminatory fuel prices - EU document

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FILE PHOTO: Surge in fuel and energy prices in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU industry chief Thierry Breton on Wednesday told Hungary to suspend discriminatory fuel pricing against vehicles with foreign licence plates or risk being taken to court, according to a European Commission letter seen by Reuters.

The move marks yet another area of discord between the European Commission and Hungary. Tensions between Brussels and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have grown in recent months, including over Budapest stalling more sanctions against Russia.

Earlier this year, Hungary said trucks weighing over 7.5 tonnes and trucks with foreign licence plates weighing over 3.5 tonnes would not be eligible for subsidised fuel at 480 forints ($1.31) per litre but would have to pay market prices.

Breton, the European Commission's industry chief, said this meant vehicles with licence plates from other EU countries would have to pay 50-60% more for fuel compared to vehicles with Hungarian licence plates, amounting to indirect discrimination and against EU rules.

"I am asking you to provide us with your reply with regard to the justification and the validity period of those measures, which might constitute violations of EU law," Breton said in a letter to Hungary's technology minister.

"I am also asking you to suspend the application of the measures until their compliance with EU law has been ensured," he wrote.

Breton said the European Commission reserves the right to launch urgent infringement proceedings which can ultimately lead to court action against Hungary and possible fines.

Hungary has said the measure was triggered by fuel tourism and increasing transit traffic that pushed up fuel consumption.

($1 = 367.1000 forints)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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