Perhaps it’s pointless for me to write once again something like “here’s the chance for the European Union to prove its unity, otherwise…”, since I have done it so many times on this page. The last time I did it was probably related to the Ukraine war and the sanctions against Russia. A few weeks ago, the EU seemed to demonstrate a real unity in terms of the Russia sanctions, but then Viktor Orbán came again and the illusions were soon gone.
With remarkable assertiveness, the European Commission recently announced the sixth package of Russia sanctions with stricter measures than ever before.
The promise of European countries being able to abandon Russian oil and gas, coupled with the European Commission allocating €210 billion for this purpose, seemed like a historic step, as this measure has been in the plans in many European capitals for roughly two decades. Budapest was also planning to do so, but the financial difficulties have always prevented Hungary from carrying out the ambitious idea.
Of course, if you have been following European politics over the past years, you are hardly surprised that the Hungarian Prime Minister and his government, who act as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s agent in all forums, soon made it clear that they were not willing to stop buying Russian oil and gas or halt Rosatom’s expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant at all. For the sake of appearances, there was a bit of a haggling about EU monies allocated to Hungary (as always), but as the deadline for the final decision was approaching, the already inflexible Hungarian position just became harder and harder.
And how did the European Union respond to that? Well, according to so far unconfirmed media reports, it will agree to remove the ban of pipeline-transported oil from the list of Russia sanctions in order to get the package adopted. Nevertheless, 26 EU member states, so all but Hungary, will still likely do whatever they can to become independent from Russian energy.
They will diversify their energy sources and keep moving towards independence.
Orbán will not be bothered by this development at all: he already won, because he got what he wanted.
Did Hungary win, though? One could hardly say so, because 1) Hungary is taking yet another step toward the exit from the European Union and 2) it will be left alone in terms of energy, thus becoming fatally dependent on Russian gas. Let’s not beat around the bush: the European Union let the Hungarian people down, just so it could avoid battling the issue out with Viktor Orbán.
And what will the European Union achieve by this? Its countries can keep eliminating their energy dependency on their own, or they can even unite their efforts, too.
However, the illusion of the united Europe is gone, because no unity can be formed with just 26 member states.
If Vladimir Putin was going for preventing Europe from taking a united stance, he has just scored a goal.
In the meantime, Hungarian citizens can rightfully ask the question: can they rely on the European Union, which is so vocal about its values, to protect them from a pro-Russia leader who tramples upon democracy? So far it doesn’t seem so.