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Hungary, the main holdout to the EU reaching an agreement on an embargo of Russian oil imports, is unwilling to discuss the potential ban at the EU summit on May 30 and 31, top Hungarian officials say.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, asking that the oil embargo be removed from the topics of discussion at the summit, according to the document dated March 23 and obtained by Reuters.
On Wednesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that if the ban is on the agenda next week, it "would run the serious danger of dismantling European unity," Argus reported.
"This problem was created by the European Commission, so the solution must be also proposed by the European Commission," the Hungarian foreign minister said.
"We see it unrealistic that such a comprehensive solution will be proposed this week," Szijjarto added.
EU diplomats have hoped that the EU summit on May 30 and 31 could reach a unanimous decision on a ban on Russian oil, to be phased out over six months and with exemptions for central European countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
In early May, the European Commission officially proposed a full ban on Russian crude and oil product imports, to come into effect by the end of the year. But the EU is still scrambling to find a common position, trying to persuade Hungary and some other central and eastern European countries to drop their opposition to an embargo.
Hungary—whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban held close ties with Putin before the Russian invasion of Ukraine—is the biggest opponent of an EU embargo on Russian oil imports, and has said it would need hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt its refining and pipeline industry in order to accommodate a stop to Russian oil imports.
Earlier this week, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Germany is willing to cut Hungary out of an EU-wide agreement on a crude oil embargo against Russia.
"If the Commission president says we're doing this as 26 without Hungary, then that is a path that I would always support," Habeck said, as quoted by Reuters, adding, "But I have not yet heard this from the EU."
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.