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A proposal by Brussels to ban oil imports from Russia by the end of next year is bad for Hungarian national energy security, Zoltán Kovács, state secretary for international communications and relations, told CNN. Kovács said Hungary received 65% of crude oil supplies and 85% of natural gas from Russia. “We inherited a one-sided dependence on Russia after the fall of communism,” he said, adding that the government has been trying in the past twelve years to increase the diversity of energy supplies. Hungary will not be able to find an alternative source to replace Russian energy under the short deadline proposed by the EU, he added. Calculations show that such a changeover would take at least 3-5 years, he said. “We haven’t received much assistance [by the European Union] so far, beyond the energy terminal in Croatia. So simply neither resources nor capacity, nor alternative resources, are available for Hungary for the moment and for the foreseeable future,” he said. In response to a question, Kovács denied reports that Hungary had been pre-warned by Russia of the invasion of Ukraine. Hungary has “received information and intelligence with the same pace and the same time as other NATO allies”, he added.
Meanwhile, Kovács told the BBC that a proposal by the European Commission to phase in sanctions on Russian oil was “unacceptable”. Asked whether Hungary would veto the proposal, Kovács said: “Shortly, yes”. He said it would take 3-4 years and around half a billion euros of investment for Hungary’s oil industry to adapt to a shift in supply of crude. Kovács stressed that the sanctions proposal regarding Russian oil came from “the administrative and bureaucratic centre” of the European Union rather than from member states. “It is proposing something that is unacceptable. They exactly know the Hungarian position. They are familiar with the facts, they are familiar with the ratios of Russian gas and oil in our energy portfolio and the importance for our economic system. So they exactly know that what they are proposing is against Hungarian interests,” he said. The proposal would “ruin the Hungarian economy”, he added.