The European Union’s proposal on phasing out imports of Russian crude oil is “unacceptable”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday, adding it was equivalent to “dropping a nuclear bomb on the Hungarian economy”.
In a regular interview with public broadcaster Kossuth Rádió, the prime minister said EU member states had agreed earlier that the bloc should only take steps that take into consideration the different energy mixes of member states and their sovereign right to decide on them. However, the president of the European Commission “either willingly or unwillingly, attacked this hard-fought European unity”, he added.
While countries with sea ports can have energy resources delivered to them by ships, landlocked countries are wholly dependent on pipelines,
he said. “The pipeline leading to Hungary starts in Russia … that is a given,” he said. Hungary cannot accept proposals ignoring that fact, he said.
Orbán said the EU proposal to phase out Russian oil imports was equivalent to “dropping a nuclear bomb on the Hungarian economy”, adding that its approval would “be the end of the utility price caps”.
Petrol prices could reach 700 forints (EUR 1.80) per litre and diesel could cost up to 800 forints,
“The battle I am fighting now is a battle to protect Hungary’s utility price caps,” Orbán said. Replacing Russian oil imports would take years and cost several hundreds of millions of forints, while changes to Hungary’s energy transmission system would cost thousands of billions of forints, the prime minister said.
The investments to make those changes would take up to five years,
he said. While the EU has allocated money to funding the developments, “they are yet to give us that money, and we cannot start the works until that arrives”, unless Hungary takes out loans form the market to cover the costs, he said. At the same time, a costly investment bringing results in 4-5 years may not “make sense” as the root of all problems, the war in Ukraine, “is here now”, he said.
Hungary will be happy to discuss proposals in line with Hungarian interests,
he said. The current one, however, “creates a problem for Hungary and makes no attempt to solve it”, he said. The current proposal may create a situation where Hungary runs out of fuel and other oil products important for its industry, Orbán warned. Hungary will not accept such a proposal.
“I have sent this back to President [Ursula von der Leyen] to be reworked, we are now waiting for the new proposal,”