Budapest is unlikely to drop its opposition to an EU embargo on Russian oil soon and leaders should not discuss the issue at an upcoming summit, Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban told Brussels in a letter seen by AFP Tuesday.
“Looking at the gravity of the issues still open, it is very unlikely that a comprehensive solution could be found before the special meeting of the European Council on 30-31 May,” Orban wrote in a letter to EU chief Charles Michel.
“I am convinced that discussing the sanctions package at the level of leaders in the absence of a consensus would be counterproductive,” said the letter, dated Monday.
It would only highlight the internal divisions without offering a realistic chance of resolving them, it added.
Orban, often the odd man out in EU decision-making, has rocked the bloc’s unity on the war in Ukraine, opposing an embargo on Russian oil proposed by the European Commission in early May.
Landlocked Hungary relies on Russian oil from a single pipeline and Orban insists the proposed sixth package of EU sanctions against Moscow would have a devastating impact on his country’s economy.
Budapest has demanded an exemption from the embargo for at least four years and wants 800 million euros ($860 million) in EU funds to re-tool a refinery and boost the capacity of a pipeline to Croatia.
The EU has offered Hungary, along with nearby Slovakia and Czech Republic, lengthy exemptions from imposing the embargo and has been locked in talks with Budapest to resolve the stand-off.
Orban’s comments look likely to frustrate Brussels and other EU capitals pushing hard to cut down on European cash flowing to fund Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC Tuesday she still hoped to secure the oil embargo within “days”.
“What we are looking at is one or two member states that are landlocked, so cannot have oil via the sea and need alternatives in pipelines and in refineries, and there we are trying to find solutions,” she said.