Brussels has already applied over 950 sanctions against Russia over its decision to recognize the Donbass republics as sovereign nations in February and the military operation in Ukraine. So, according to an EU diplomat, the union is running out of sanctions it can slap on Russia.
“The 7th package of sanctions against Moscow will be extremely difficult […] We are very close to reaching our limits. What will the 7th package include?” the diplomat, who was present at Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers discussing proposed restrictions, asked, speaking to Euractiv. “If there was such a mess with Russia’s oil, imagine what would happen with a proposal to ban gas.”
The diplomat stressed that Hungary had not budged from its position on the proposed oil embargo against Russia – referring to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s warning that such a ban would have an effect on the Hungarian economy equivalent to an “atomic bomb”.
“Hungary is doing everything to get guarantees […] essentially to get the money from the Recovery Fund and even more than that”, the official said.
The diplomat nevertheless expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved before it is taken to a summit, due to the “huge pressure” that would be placed on Orban at such a level. At the same time, the official warned that other countries expected to suffer economically in the event of an oil ban may face questions from their populations after they begin to ask why their countries did not receive the proposed Hungarian-style assistance.
In an interview with El País last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that a ban on Russian oil would require Budapest to invest up to 550 million euros on capacity to refine non-Russian crude, and 200 million more on the Adriatic Sea Pipeline. These projects would take years to implement, and the price of gas in Hungary would rise by 55 per cent.
Also, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and other EU members have expressed concerns about rapidly phasing out of Russian energy, saying they have no easily-sourced alternatives to these supplies.