Right at the beginning of the special EU summit, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen lowered expectations of the meeting. She has little hope that there will be an agreement on the planned oil embargo within the next 48 hours, she said on Monday afternoon.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived at the summit shortly after her, and he made it clear where he saw the problem. Before there is a decision on further sanctions against Russia, solutions for Hungary’s energy security are needed, Orbán demanded.
It is not a bad approach to initially only impose a delivery stop for oil that is transported by ship, Orbán said. The EU Commission had previously submitted a corresponding compromise proposal; it was intended to address the concerns of the Hungarian leader, whose country is entirely dependent on oil imports via the Druzhba pipeline. But in Brussels, Orbán has now said that Hungary’s oil imports must be secured in the event of a supply disruption on the southern strand of the Druzhba, which runs through Ukraine.
Slovakia and the Czech Republic as well as Hungary are supplied via the southern branch of the “Druschba” pipeline, which recently handled a third of all Russian oil imports. The northern strand extends through Poland to Germany.
Immediately before the start of the summit, the ambassadors of the 27 EU countries agreed on a text that basically provides for a phased delivery stop for Russian oil and a temporary exception for pipeline oil. However, according to EU diplomats, there were still several unanswered questions. According to this, EU states that are among the coastal states would demand that the exceptions for landlocked countries such as Hungary remain as limited as possible.
There are solid economic interests behind this demand by the sea-riparians. Belgium’s head of government, Alexander De Croo, declared on Monday that an embargo imposed solely on sea imports would lead to a new economic imbalance within the EU. Therefore, there must be a “compensation”, demanded De Croo.
According to EU diplomats, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also wants to mention at the summit that Orbán could gain an economic advantage by holding on to Russian pipeline oil for as long as possible. In this case, Hungarian refinery products could reach the EU internal market with the help of Russian supplies at a comparatively low price, it said.