Hungary demands energy investment before backing EU sanctions on Russian oil

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BRUSSELS – Hungary stalled on Monday over its demand for energy investment before Russia agreed to an oil embargo, as Ukraine clashed with EU states for speedy approval of further EU sanctions against Russia.

Earlier this month, the EU commission proposed a new package of sanctions against the Kremlin, but measures have not yet been taken. Hungary is among the most vocal critics of the plan.

Ahead of the ministerial talks in Brussels on Monday, Hungarian Justice Minister Judith Verg told reporters: “First the solution, then the sanctions.

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It clashed with several governments’ calls for an agreement before a summit of EU leaders on 30 May.

Hungary, which relies heavily on Russian oil, said a short-term investment of about 750 million euros ($ 800.8 million) would be needed to upgrade refineries and expand an oil pipeline from Croatia.

This further indicates that the transformation of its economy away from Russian oil could cost as much as 18 billion euros in the long run.

The commission last week proposed up to 2 billion euros in aid to land-locked Central and Eastern European countries that lack access to non-Russian supplies – effectively Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

These states have been offered a long transition period to free themselves from Russian oil.

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To address long-term concerns, the commission has unveiled a 210 billion euro plan aimed at ending Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, but did not specify how new investments would be shared between EU states.

One of the main stumbling blocks is the amount that the EU is willing to pay Hungary to accommodate the two refineries that only Russian crude oil can process at the moment, an official told Reuters on Monday, confirming one of the main problems causing stalemate.

At a meeting of EU diplomats last week, several ambassadors, including France, Lithuania, Belgium and Ireland, called for a compromise before next week’s EU summit to avoid political escalation of the controversy, diplomats said.

(1 = 0.9366 euros) (Additional report by Kate Abbott; edited by John Harvey)

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