Hungary, whose right-wing leader has just won reelection, has blocked an EU proposal to ban the sale of oil to Europe. The EU had offered an exception for two countries, Hungary and Slovakia, until 2024 to comply, but Orban still rebuffed the offer, calling it a “red line… a nuclear bomb dropped on the Hungarian economy, ” offering a confusing explanation.
The foreign minister stated, “we have voted for all the sanctions packages so far, but this latest one would destroy the security of the Hungarian energy supply.” While Hungary is the European country most dependent on Russian natural gas, the ban has no inclusion of this resource, but instead covers crude and refined oil.
Unlike gas which is often delivered through fixed pipelines, oil is relatively easy to transport and supply chains can be redirected in weeks, calling into question Hungarian claims.
While the Financial Times suggests that Hungary is dependent on the Druzhba pipeline for much of their imports, this pipeline actually transverses Ukraine, suggesting that the continuation of the conflict may itself put their supplies at risk.
Orban also refused another proposal to sanction the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, “Patriach Kirill,” and Putin affiliate, denying that any war has taken place, stating “Russia has never attacked anyone.” Orban claimed that sanctions against a “religious leader” would offend Hungarian Orthodox , despite numbering at just 0.15% of Hungary’s population.
The Patriarch has been heavily criticized for politicizing the religion, with the Pope stating that he had directly admonished Kirill, saying, “Brother, we are not state clerics, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus.”
Despite Orban’s nonchalantness about the security implications of the invasion for Europe, Orban’s regime is alleged to be inflating the numbers of refugees and demanding more funding from the EU, counting those passing through their territory as being settled in Hungary, despite his country’s relative lack of friendliness to foreigners. Most instead have resettled in Poland who has been welcoming. This demand for European subsidies comes even while Orban refuses to implement their proposals to slow the funding that fuels the conflict instigating the refugee crisis.
This tension within the EU may lead to increased calls both within Hungary and the EU itself for a degree of political distance between the two.