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DAVOS, Switzerland – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has ruled out reaching an EU-wide agreement on a ban on Russian oil imports at next week’s European Council summit .
In an interview with POLITICO on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, von der Leyen said she didn’t want to raise “false expectations” about a deal being struck next week.
“I think it’s not an appropriate topic to resolve in the European Council because it’s very technical what we’re discussing,” she said. “We’re talking about landlocked countries that need alternative pipeline supply, so we have to talk about investment in pipelines, to increase supply, and we’re talking about refineries that need to be upgraded, investment and renewable energies.”
His comments come after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he would not discuss Russian sanctions at the May 30-31 summit.
The imposition of sanctions on Russian oil marks a key test of EU credibility. It’s been almost three weeks since von der Leyen proposed a “comprehensive ban” on all imports of Russian crude oil and refined fuels, in a bid to cut off a lucrative revenue stream that helps Vladimir Putin finance his invasion of Russia. Ukraine.
Despite numerous rounds of talks and the offer of more time to prepare for a ban, Hungary has delayed an agreement on sanctions between the 27 EU countries. Budapest has warned that the ban on Russian oil will deal a devastating blow to Hungary’s economy.
Orbán’s government has suggested it would cost up to 15-18 billion euros to shift away from its reliance on Russian oil, including overhauling refining and pipeline infrastructure. Talks are underway in Brussels on how to meet Hungary’s demands for cash.
“There is a political element that could be discussed – that is how much are the other 26 [member countries] ready to concede an investment to Hungary, but the first and main difficulties are the technical difficulties that we are discussing at the moment,” said von der Leyen.
When asked if she expected the issue to be discussed at next week’s summit, she replied, “I don’t expect that, I don’t want to raise false expectations here.”
Von der Leyen also indicated that she would speak to Orbán in the next few days.
“I visited him in Budapest to understand what the implications are, and objectively it is a strong and difficult technical problem. Of course, there is always politics involved, but it is above all a technical problem and of course, we are in constant contact with the two firms, because it is… very technical what must move forward .”
She added: “If necessary, I am always in contact with him by telephone.”
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