Slovakia, Hungary won't back EU sanctions on Russian energy

AP , Tuesday 3 May 2022

Slovakia and Hungary said Tuesday that they will not support sanctions against Russian energy that the European Union is preparing over the war in Ukraine, saying they are too reliant on those supplies and there are no immediate alternatives.

Slovakia Minister of Economy Richard Sulik
Slovakia Minister of Economy Richard Sulik (L) talks with Hungary State Secretary for Development of Circular Economy and for Energy and Climate Policy, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology Attila Steiner (R) during the Special European Energy Ministers Council on Russian gas and petrol crisis at the EU headquarters in Brussels on May 2, 2022. AFP


EU commissioners are debating new proposals for sanctions, which could include a phased-in embargo on Russian oil.

The 27 member countries are likely to start discussing them Wednesday, but it could be several days before the measures take effect and it's not clear if oil would be among them or Slovakia and Hungary would receive exemptions.

Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulik said the country's sole refiner, Slovnaft, cannot immediately switch from Russian crude to another kind of oil. Changing the technology would take several years, Sulik said.

``So, we will insist on the exemption, for sure,'' Sulik told reporters.

Slovakia's almost fully dependent on Russian oil it receives through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline. Hungary is also heavily reliant, though other major energy importers like Germany said it could cope if the EU banned Russian oil, with officials still noting ``it is a heavy load to bear.``

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the country will not vote for any sanctions ``that will make the transport of natural gas or oil from Russia to Hungary impossible.''

``The point is simple, that Hungary's energy supply cannot be endangered because no one can expect us to allow the price of the war (in Ukraine) to be paid by Hungarians,'' Szijjarto said, speaking Tuesday in Kazakhstan.

``It is currently physically impossible for Hungary and its economy to function without Russian oil.''

Despite disagreement among EU members on new energy sanctions, European Council President Charles Michel vowed to ``break the Russian war machine'' by steering countries on the continent away from Russia's natural gas supplies.

The bloc is racing to secure alternative supplies to Russian energy, placing priority on global LNG imports from countries that include major producers like Algeria, Qatar, and the United States.

That includes liquefied natural gas facilities being built in northern Greece, which Michel and the leaders of four Balkan countries toured Tuesday.

``We are also sanctioning Russia to put financial, economic, and political pressure on the Kremlin because our goal is simple: We must break the Russian war machine,'' Michel said.

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