Hungary cannot support the European Union’s new sanctions package targeting Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said.
The far-right leader said the European Commission’s current proposal banning Russian oil imports would amount to an “atomic bomb” dropped on the Hungarian economy, adding that Hungary was ready to negotiate if it sees a new proposal that would meet the country’s interests.
The EU’s executive on Wednesday proposed the toughest package of sanctions yet against Moscow, but several countries worried about the impact of cutting off Russia oil imports stood in the way of agreement.
A handful of eastern EU countries are concerned that the halt would not allow them enough time to adapt, even though diplomats said Hungary and Slovakia would be given until the end of 2023.
Mr Orban told state radio that Hungary would need five years and make huge investments in its refineries and pipelines to be able to transform its current system which relies around 65% on Russian oil.
“We know exactly what we need, first of all we need five years for this whole process to be completed… one to one and a half years is not enough for anything,” he said, adding that Hungary would also need vast investment in refineries and the shipping system to allow imports of non-Russian oil.
Mr Orban also questioned whether it was wise to make investments on that scale for a result in four to five years’ time, while the war in Ukraine was happening now.
He added that Hungary was waiting to see a new proposal from the Commission.
“I don’t want to confront the EU but to cooperate… but this is only possible if they take our interests into account.”