Viktor Orban says EU oil ban would be 'nuclear bomb' on Hungary's economy

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Viktor Orban accused Ursula von der Leyen of breaking apart EU unity - BERNADETT SZABO
Viktor Orban accused Ursula von der Leyen of breaking apart EU unity - BERNADETT SZABO

Viktor Orban said on Friday the impact of the European Union’s plan to ban imports of Russian oil would be like a “nuclear bomb” being dropped on Hungary’s economy.

The Hungarian prime minister also accused Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, of breaking apart EU unity with her proposed ban on Russian oil.

“The European Commission president, intentionally or unintentionally, has attacked the European unity that had been worked out,” he told state broadcaster Kossuth Radio.

"From the first moment we made clear that there will be a red line, that is the energy embargo, they have crossed this red line."

Under the Commission's proposals for a sixth round of economic sanctions against Moscow, EU countries would phase out supplies of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a sixth round of economic sanctions against Moscow - ALBERT GEA
Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a sixth round of economic sanctions against Moscow - ALBERT GEA

Landlocked Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been offered a longer transition period, until the end of 2023, because of their reliance on deliveries of Russian oil via pipelines.

“The proposal on the table now creates a Hungarian problem, and there is no plan to solve it," Mr Orban added, proposing a five-year transition period to readjust his country's supplies.

European sources said they had hoped for a deal on the sanctions by Friday morning but talks are now expected to run into the weekend.

Backlash from EU member states

An agreement has proved hard to reach because a number of proposals face significant opposition from EU member states.

The Commission is proposing a ban on European ships transporting Russian oil and petroleum to any part of the world.

Greece has called for a carve-out from this sanction because it does not want to stop making money from its fleet of tankers.

In private talks, Athens argued if it halted its lucrative oil-shipping business, non-EU countries would quickly step in to transport Russian oil and petrol to the likes of India and China.

Diplomats said an exemption from this element would undermine the sanctions, which are aimed at reducing the number of tankers available to Russia.

Other countries, including Cyprus, raised questions over a proposed ban on providing corporate services, such as accountancy, to Russians.

And Hungary also opposed sanctions targeting religious figures after Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and an ardent supporter of Vladimir Putin, was included on a draft list.

Responding to the criticism a European Commission spokesman said: "Sanctions are a sophisticated tool that we've always said are to ensure we can inflict maximum pain on the Kremlin and the ability to finance its war machine, while at the same time minimising the impact on the EU."

Exports of fossil fuels are one of Russia's main revenue sources. Germany alone imported €84 billion worth of oil from Russia since Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to an EU analysis seen by the Telegraph.

The sixth package of penalties would also see Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, disconnected from the SWIFT international payment system, Mrs von der Leyen announced earlier this week.

Credit Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank would also be cut off from Swift, according to the draft proposals.

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