On Tuesday, Hungary and Slovakia said they were unwilling to cut off Russian oil imports, increasing the prospect of countries opting out if the EU seeks to impose an embargo on Moscow. Ukraine and EU member states are pressuring EU leaders to include an oil embargo in the sixth wave of sanctions, cutting off a vital source of money for Moscow.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said during a visit to Kazakhstan on Tuesday that “it is currently physically impossible for Hungary and its economy to function without Russian oil.”
“No one can expect us to allow the price of the war to be paid by Hungarians,” he said, adding that Hungary will vote against any sanctions that would make Russian oil exports difficult.
Slovakia’s Economy Minister, Richard Sulik, said he would seek an exemption from any ban because the country’s sole refiner, Slovnaft, would take years to transition from Russian crude to a different type of oil.
Despite the potential stumbling blocks, European Council President Charles Michel stated on Tuesday that he is “confident that the council will imminently impose further sanctions, notably on Russian oil.” As markets braced for a possible import restriction, oil prices hovered around $100 per barrel.
Any deal on Russian oil would need the approval of all 27 EU countries, which means Hungary and Slovakia would have to vote yes. Last month, the union agreed to a Russian coal embargo in the fifth package, but it has yet to move into gas.