The Commission has drawn the ire of several EU nations over its plan to send funding to Hungary to help to convince President Viktor Orban to cooperate over EU sanctions on Russian oil. The officials are reportedly considering offering financial compensation to Mr Orban as Hungary refused to sign on to the bloc’s plan to sanction Russian oil. The Hungarian leader has described a complete oil ban as a “nuclear bomb” and has so far thwarted EU plans by demanding more time to phase out imports.
Without the support of all 27 member states, the bloc cannot move forward.
Mr Orban said that while his government is willing to negotiate on any EU proposals that are in Hungary’s interests, the country’s geography and existing energy infrastructure make a shutdown of Russian oil unfeasible.
Hungary, being completely landlocked, is heavily dependent on Russian energy, accounting for 85 percent of its natural gas and more than 60 percent of its oil.
The Commission is now facing backlash for its plan to help Hungary ditch Russian gas faster with financial support, as senior diplomats from different countries raised concerns during a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Ms von der Leyen has been scrambling to impose the sixth round of sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, this time looking to target Russia’s oil exports.
The bloc will not issue an immediate ban on Russian oil, according to sources, but rather will form a plan to phase out oil imports from Moscow by the end of the year.
Energy exports are vital to Russia’s economy, as its revenues propped up about half the country’s budget in 2021.
Experts agree that Russia’s brutal invasion has been largely bankrolled by its revenues from energy exports like oil, natural gas and coal.
A senior diplomat EU diplomat said: “The more we can help Hungary with REPowerEU, the faster they can move away from Russian oil.”
Last week, an EU Commission spokesperson highlighted the “specific situation of member states and the need to cater for their specific circumstances” when drafting plans for the Russian oil sanctions.
Hungary has previously warned that if these measures would hinder Budapest’s ability to import energy, the country would be ready to veto it.