EU agrees on Russian oil embargo after Hungary gets exemption

By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

After all-day talks lasting into the early hours of Tuesday, the European Union agreed on the sixth embargo package against Russia, while Hungary scored a major diplomatic success as it got the exemption on pipeline oil deliveries it requested.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, which provided the institutional framework for the summit, announced the success of the negotiations shortly after midnight. The punitive measures are effective immediately, with two-thirds of Russia’s oil exports to the European Union expected to be affected.

French authorities explained that 90 percent of Russia’s oil imports would disappear by the end of the year.

Russian oil exports to the EU account for a quarter of the European Union’s total oil imports — they were worth $108 billion (€99 billion) to the Russian economy in 2021 alone.

The most controversial element of the sanctions package was the embargo on oil imports from Russia, which was rejected by the Hungarian government. Since top-level EU decisions require unanimity, Hungary was the only member to veto the entire sanctions package.

Less loudly and without waving a veto, Slovakia and the Czech Republic did not fully support the oil embargo either, as these two countries, like Hungary, also rely heavily on the Russian oil pipeline called Friendship, but there have also been reports of serious concerns from Croatia and Bulgaria.

To convince the Hungarian government, the draft sanction included the stipulation that the embargo would only apply to Russian oil coming through tankers, and that oil coming through the pipeline would be exempted from the import ban.

However, just before the summit began Monday afternoon, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came up with a new demand that Hungary should receive a guarantee that if something happens to the oil pipeline passing through Ukraine, Hungary will still have access to offshore oil supplies. According to the Politico news outlet, this guarantee was formulated as “security of supply will be addressed through emergency solutions in the event of a sudden supply disruption.”

“We managed to repel the commission’s proposal which would have banned the use of Russian oil in Hungary,” Orbán said in a Facebook post as the negotiations concluded.

Further details of the embargo will be released on Tuesday.

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