When Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the 6th proposals last Wednesday, sources from the both Commission and several EU member states were “optimistic” that it would pass within a reasonable timeframe.
But unlike other rounds of sanctions against Moscow approved swiftly by member states, the EU appeared no closer to agreeing on a Russian oil embargo nearly a week after it was proposed by the Commission. Yet within hours of the final draft landing with ambassadors of each member state, cracks appeared in the much-vaunted cohesion and unity of purpose.
The three landlocked countries namey, Hungary and Slovakia, and the Czech republic with heaviest dependence on oil immediately pushed back at the proposition that they phase out crude oil by the end of 2023, requesting a much longer timeframe until 2025.
Now that negotiations appear to be going at a snail’s pace and the Commission is scrambling behind the scene to find compromises a week after the proposal.
Von der Leyen flew to Budapest was reported to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday who previously described the sanctions as an “atomic bomb” for his country’s economy and insisted that they would need an extra five years and billions of euros to completely change the infrastructure to allow alternative suppliers.
“This evening’s discussion with PM Viktor Orban was helpful to clarify issues related to sanctions and energy security.” von der Leyen tweeted after the meeting.
Orbán is reported to have asked for hundreds of millions of euros in funding to upgrade oil refineries as well as access to recovery funds.
The EU has withheld around €7 billion of recovery funds from Hungary over rule of law abuses and allegations of corruption.
What is known for sure is that progress is slow. EU ambassadors meet on Wednesday but the optimism for a breakthrough is muted.
While it’s likely that the 6th sanctions package will eventually pass, it’s unclear what it will mean for the next package – which will undoubtedly focus on Russian gas.