Thursday

8th Dec 2022

Hungary delays oil ban over Putin's patriarch

  • Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia (c) (Photo: Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy)
Listen to article

Hungary is further delaying EU sanctions on Russia, now saying Europe must not blacklist Russian Orthodox Church head, patriarch Kirill.

The Hungarian ambassador issued the Kirill veto at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (1 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It came as a surprise after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán shook hands with EU leaders on a Russia sanctions deal at a summit on Monday without mentioning the patriarch, EU diplomats said.

Orbán had earlier held up the new EU sanctions already by insisting on carve-outs for Hungary's oil imports.

Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia — 75-year old Vladimir Gundayev from St Petersburg — was to be listed for calling Russia's war on Ukraine "a religious cleansing operation" and blessing Russian soldiers in sermons, according to an internal EU document from May seen by EUobserver.

He was just a symbolic part of the sanctions package, with a Russia oil embargo set to cost the Kremlin hundreds of billions of euros a year.

And internal EU talks will continue on Thursday to break the latest impasse.

But whether Kirill ends up staying on the EU list or not, the fresh delay was "embarrassing" for Europe's efforts to project unity and soured relations with Hungary, diplomats said.

"The French ambassador [who chaired Wednesday's meeting] insisted that it was too late in the process to introduce this kind of change," an EU diplomat said.

The meeting dragged on for hours and the atmosphere became "heated", a second diplomat said.

"They [Hungary] suddenly came out with it [the Kirill objection] without giving any real reasons," a third EU diplomat said.

"If you give them an inch, they'll take a yard. Orbán was emboldened by his oil deal," a fourth EU diplomat added, referring to Hungary's oil-embargo derogations. "It's time for Europe to say: enough!", the diplomat said.

The Hungarian foreign ministry did not reply to EUobserver's questions on Wednesday.

Orbán has a history of friendly ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He is also facing EU sanctions for abusing rule of law in Hungary, which saw billions in European funding for Budapest frozen.

According to the internal EU document, the upcoming EU sanctions will also hit top Russian banks and TV propaganda channels.

They will impose a visa ban and asset freeze on the family of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and on dozens of Russian military commanders, citing Russian armed forces' "rape" and "torture" in Ukraine 46 times in the EU paper.

Opinion

The Patriarch who's in lockstep with Putin

The doublespeak by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriach Kirill, on "the events taking place" is not just reprehensible – it could amount to an international crime, writes Stephen Minas.

Opinion

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  2. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  3. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  4. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war
  5. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  6. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  7. Autocrats make us all less secure
  8. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us