Europe has toughened its stance on Russia. The European Commission has announced plans for another package of Russia sanctions. The direction is good, but some issues have still been ignored, unfortunately.
The package is aimed at banning some more Russian leaders and cutting more Russian banks, including the leading Sberbank, off the SWIFT system.
It would also ban several media outlets that spread Russian fake news, but the most radical and important element is undoubtedly the oil embargo to be carried out by the end of this year.
This is the hardest point to agree on, because breaking off from the Russian oil import is painful even for those EU member states that are the least dependant on it, but two countries are certainly in a critical situation: Hungary and especially Slovakia. Due to their geographical position and economic status, they have largely relied on imported Russian oil so far. Looking on the bright side, longer timescales have been suggested for their transition, and we have heard the EU is also considering helping these two countries.
In contrast, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s attitude is quite depressing.
Having already been the most unashamed mouthpiece of Moscow’s propaganda in his own country, he’s just kicked up the anti-Europe instigation a notch: he’s now threatening the Hungarian people that if Budapest is no longer allowed to buy Russian oil, Hungarian citizens will hardly be able to make ends meet. Furthermore, to fuel his domestic propaganda machine (or perhaps to comply with the rumoured Russian blackmail?), he’s now willing to veto the sanction package even after the EU’s offer for a softer transition, thus disrupting Europe’s unity and making our continent just as impotent as the Kremlin expected it to be before starting the war on Ukraine.
As far as Viktor Orbán and his regime are concerned, Europe has no choice left other than facing the fact that Orbán, who won the 2022 national elections with suspicious methods and Russian anti-Europe fake news, just can’t be pacified. Any dispute with him will just further strengthen his position, because his loyal media will always keep presenting a narrative that puts him in a positive light. The only way to handle Orbán is to isolate and sanction him, just like all the other lackeys of the Kremlin.
The other important technical rather than political issue is getting rid of the Russian nuclear energy.
Rosatom’s bilateral deals with certain European states have been subjected to some scrutiny, but no decision has been made. However, such projects obviously mean extremely close and nearly unbreakable ties between Moscow and the particular states. In light of the current situation, this kind of risk is intolerable. One EU member state affected by the Rosatom deal was Finland, but it has already terminated the contract. The other one is Hungary, where the Orbán government, hardly surprisingly, stubbornly insists on Rosatom carrying out the upgrade of the Paks power plant, thus making Hungary even more dependent on Russia. The Russian oil ban must obviously be followed by a boycott on Russian atomic energy: Russian nuclear projects must be banned from the territory of the European Union. It should come as no surprise for you if I predict that Viktor Orbán will threaten to veto any agreement once again, which takes us back to my proposal two paragraphs above.
The issue is pressing. Time to take action!
Source: Press release