EU fails to finalise embargo on Russian oil imports as Hungary vetoes proposal

Sanctions require the unanimous agreement of the 27 member states in order to pass

The European Union failed to finalise an embargo on Russian oil imports on Monday as Hungary maintained its veto on a proposal intended to undermine Russia's financial ability to wage its war.

"Unhappily, it has not been possible to reach an agreement today," the EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters after foreign ministers met to try to break the impasse.

Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Hungary had rejected what he described as a generous offer to delay the implementation of the import ban until the end of 2024.

“Unfortunately the whole union is being held hostage by one member state,” he told reporters.

As the meeting was held, Ukrainian protesters gathered outside the building and enacted an airstrike, playing the sounds of sirens, explosions and screams as they lay on the ground in front of a banner reading “cut Russian gas and oil”.

“Foreign ministers ... when you are taking the decision on the oil embargo, remember us, remember our pain,” one protester said through a loudspeaker.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba attended the meeting of EU foreign ministers in person and urged them to move forward with the sanctions first proposed by the European Commission earlier this month.

"I would like to remind that every day European countries continue paying millions of euros to Russia for gas and oil and it's exactly this money that are then being used to finance the Russian war machine," he told reporters.

Sanctions require the unanimous agreement of the 27 member states in order to pass, and the matter may now need to be taken on by national leaders at a summit at the end of the month to be resolved.

Compensation

The Hungarian government accused the European Commission of failing to come forward with a proposal of adequate financial compensation to persuade his country to adopt the measure.

"It's a rightful expectation from Hungary ... that the EU should offer a solution: to finance the investments and compensate," Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook.

Hungary is landlocked and highly dependent on Russian gas for energy, and much of its infrastructure is set up with the technical specifications to cater for Russian crude.

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he was "very frustrated" that the European Commission had still not released €300 million in education funding for the Palestinian Authority at a time when it is struggling financially, despite near-unanimous support from EU member states and a public appeal by 15 countries including Ireland to release the money last month.

Hungary’s Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has vetoed the release of the funds since last year, demanding oversight of the content of textbooks.

“This is EU money and EU countries want it released so that the Palestinian Authority can provide basic services to their people. And it shouldn’t be delayed any further,” Mr Coveney said.