French President Emmanuel Macron has held talks with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban as the European Union (EU) looks to finalise plans to phase out Russian oil imports.
It is understood the two leaders spoke on the phone, following extensive talks between Orban and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday.
“There are contacts at all levels to ensure we have a global deal on this sixth package,” an Elysee official told news agency Reuters.
The EU ban on Russian oil is intended to be the centrepiece of a sixth package of sanctions aimed at the Kremlin, with the bloc previously announcing identical measures against coal supplies.
However, multiple member states have raised reservations, with Czechia, Slovakia and Bulgaria securing two-year withdrawals of Russian oil imports in order to pass through the sanctions.
Hungary is also opting for a two-year window, but has warned it can’t commit to the terms if it also includes pipeline restrictions for supplies from Russia.
The bloc depends on Russia for around 25 per cent of its annual crude imports, making it considerably more reliant on Kremlin-backed oil supplies than key allies such as the UK and US which have already confirmed restrictions.
Alongside concerns over supply shortages, there is friction between Hungary and the EU over post-Covid recovery funds.
The group is withholding €7.2bn from Hungary over concerns about “grave breaches of the rule of law” including corruption and politicised courts.
It is unclear how the bloc will bring in sanctions on Russian oil supplies without convincing Hungary, with unanimity required to pass such measures.
von der Leyen has hinted the European Commission could look into scrapping unanimity for key measures ti ensure the bloc can respond sufficiently to emergencies.