Orban’s block to Russian oil embargo shows EU needs urgent reform

London, 4 May 2022 – Today EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the plan to ban Russian crude oil imports in six months and refined products by the end of this year. Meanwhile Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban will veto the move de facto blocking sanctions on EU imports from Russia as unanimity is needed to approve sanctions.

It’s not by chance that EU started a process to change and amend treaties in order to get rid of the unanimity on crucial foreign policy and security decisions. Meanwhile, with regards to Orban, the EU already considered the chance to offer Hungary (and Slovakia) exemptions from Russian oil embargo. That’s to turn around the structural issue of the necessary reform of the voting system on common foreign policy. Right today the long path has started, but amending Maastricht or Lisbon treaties takes years and a series of votes at national level.

We know that our oil and gas imports from Russia de facto finance Putin’s war against Ukraine, therefore this raise a moral issue widely affecting people across EU. The renewable energy plan is not in place as yet, nor at EU and national levels either, and it’s not clear how countries heavily reliant on oil and gas imports from Russia will thrive, though all (but Hungary) reckoned the urgency to weaken Russia.

EU imports from Russia represent 27% of its overall crude oil. In particular Eurostat data show Germany is the biggest Russian oil importer

To what extent, by the way the Kremlin’s klepto-regime will fall into an irreversible recession?

Putin’s ex chief economic advisor, Andrei Illarionov, who now lives in the United States, said in an interview to BBC News last 10 April that if Western countries “would try to implement a real embargo on oil and gas exports from Russia… I would bet that probably within a month or two, Russian military operations in Ukraine, probably will be ceased, will be stopped”.

Andrei Illarionov, President Putin’s chief economic adviser from 2000 to 2005, interviewed by BBC News

The huge hit on Russian economy (recession forecast 8 to 15%) is upcoming and it’s not to be given for granted Russians will react massively despite repression and fear of ending in prison for years only for speaking the truth.