The E.U. has again failed to reach an agreement on a plan to phase out Russian oil, leaving a narrow window to strike a deal ahead of a special European Council summit in Brussels on Monday night and underscoring the challenge of building consensus when it comes to energy sanctions.
A European Commission plan to wean off Russian oil has been held up for about a month, primarily over objections from Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has insisted on more time and money to upgrade his landlocked country’s oil infrastructure.
Because there is sympathy for Hungary and other countries that remain reliant on imports from Russia, the holdouts have been offered extensions and exemptions — all to no avail.
The latest proposal, for instance, would ban seaborne deliveries within months, but exempt pipeline deliveries for now, keeping oil flowing from Russia to several E.U. countries, including Hungary. But that was not enough to get Orban onboard, according to E.U. officials and diplomats.
Some E.U. diplomats say Orban’s opposition goes beyond the oil issue, suggesting the Hungarian leader — who is a regular E.U. spoiler — is using the situation to punish officials for withholding economic recovery money over rule-of-law violations.
E.U. ambassadors will discuss the issue Monday morning. If they fail to reach a consensus, E.U. leaders will pick up the conversation at the summit dinner Monday night.