Estonian MEP on oil embargo stalling: Hungary, others' conduct shameful
Hungary's blocking of the European Union's oil embargo against Russia is shameful, MEP Jaak Madison said on the ETV "Esimene stuudio" talk show, adding that Germany's stalling in addressing its Russian gas dependence is hardly commendable either.
The European Union has proposed banning Russian oil imports. Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban has been the most critical of the plan as his country depends on Russian gas and oil.
MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE) said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show that while he may share many of Hungary's positions, the oil embargo is not one of them.
"I find it less than praiseworthy when you are the only one of 27 member states blocking the oil embargo," he remarked.
"But just like pressure needs to be put on Hungary, it needs to be put on Germany as concerns the oil embargo. Therefore, I believe there are more states in Central and Western Europe, also Southern Europe, that are problematic when it comes to really bringing Russia to its knees. That is to say that while Hungary's conduct is shameful, they are not the only ones."
MEP Sven Mikser (Social Democratic Party) said that EU premiers and presidents have different diplomatic and political levers with which to put pressure on Hungary and he believes the embargo will be agreed.
Host Johannes Tralla pointed out that Hungary has demanded €15-18 billion in exchange for greenlighting sanctions. Mikser described the demand as immoral and unrealistic.
"At the same time, some sort of a compromise will have to be found. I believe it will be found, while it is unfortunate it is taking so long," the MEP offered.
"The development is not exactly unique. We are seeing the same thing in NATO where the Turkish president has tabled demands that also include a measure of blackmail, which is both regrettable and immoral but will not ultimately stop NATO expansion. It shows that saving Ukraine from Russian aggression does not top every European capital or politician's priorities list," he added.
Reform Party MEP Andrus Ansip suggested the focus on Hungary is somewhat misguided as countries have already set about reducing their dependence on Russian energy independently.
"Even without a consensual agreement for an oil embargo, dependence on Russian oil will not last. Let us take Germany: Russian imports used to make up 35 percent of their portfolio, while they have already dropped to 12 percent. Let us look at gas: Finland's Russian gas imports have shrunk by 60 percent in the first three months. Countries everywhere have cut their dependence without any kind of embargo," the former European Commission vice-president explained.
"Hungary is not picking a fight completely without reason. Countries find themselves in different situations. Estonia has no real dependence, while we know that Alexela has its containers full in Sillamäe and Paldiski, with tankers coming in from Ust-Luga and Primorsk regular as trams. At the same time, Hungary has a single pipeline and has built a refinery that requires a particular type of oil. Replacing it with a different type would reduce efficiency and might render the refinery unprofitable. Which is to say they some reason," Ansip added.
Isamaa MEP Riho Terras said Hungary has been traitorous throughout the Ukraine war and should be hit with all applicable EU sanctions.
Terras added that the Russian oil and gas debate has made all EU members realize dependence on Russian energy needs to be reduced.
"European countries have enjoyed cheap gas and oil for decades. It's like a drug you cannot shake overnight. I had a long conversation with Austrians today who, on the one hand, say that the war is terrible but add that their 80 percent gas dependence is the only option they have. It is laughable because Russia can simply turn off the tap and they would still have to look for alternatives. However, in the long term, I believe the debate has led to countries understanding that Russian gas and oil are tainted so to speak, which is why alternatives need to be found. And they are being frantically sought," Terras offered.
Marina Kaljurand (SDE) said that EU member states have not managed to agree on an embargo because they have gotten used to the war.
"While it is not a nice thing to say, that is the reality today. We can feel it. The initial sanctions packages were passed unanimously and post haste. Wile they were less effective than what followed, they were approved in one voice. We see no such unity today. Now, I increasingly hear people ask, 'but what about our people's suffering, what about what it will do to them,'" Kaljurand said.
She added that major European powers are concerned.
"This concern needs to be addressed. The European Commission tabled a package of measures today, around a dozen legal acts aimed at compensating people and companies for the damage about to be done. We should have paid it attention sooner. We should have started thinking about what they mean for the people when sanctions were first laid down, to remove that lever," Kaljurand said.
The Reform Party's Urmas Paet said that all recent sanctions have had holes in them.
"From an idealistic point of view, that sanctions should have maximum effect to weaken Russia and rob it of the resources it needs to continue the war in Ukraine at length, even decisions made in the last three months have had major holes," he suggested.
"We all remember how everyone cheered in late February, early March how the EU and the West were about to cut Russia off from international banking. The reality is that several important Russian banks continue participating in the international banking system in part. One such example is Gazprombank that, far from financing the gas business, is servicing the Russian military industrial complex, buying weapons for the army etc.," Paet explained.
He said that sanctions should be explicit to avoid companies prioritizing their business interests and continuing to deal with Russia in rubles.
"Looking at ruble transactions for energy, they clearly show that without very clearly worded sanctions or limitations, many will find their own skin closest, which is to say that a lot of companies all over Europe are making every effort to continue doing business to avoid losses," Paet said.
Center Party representative Yana Toom was invited but could not appear on the Wednesday "Esimene stuudio."
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Editor: Marcus Turovski