Viktor Orbán: who is Hungary’s leader and why is he blocking ban on Russian oil imports?

The EU is considering watering down a ban on Russian oil imports after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blocked the latest sanctions against Putin

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has clocked the latest round of European Union sanctions on Russian oil imports, forcing the organisation to consider watering down the ban.

The EU was set to to ban all Russian imports, however a new plan, which would pacify Mr Orbán, would ban oil arriving in tankers but allow imports via pipeline.

The Druzhba pipeline runs through Ukraine and supplies Russian oil to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Hungary voiced concerns over the blanket ban after stating it would need five years and investment worth billions of euros to upgrade its own oil refineries in order for the country to function without Russian oil.

Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin have close ties (image: AFP/Getty Images)

What did Viktor Orbán say about the Russia oil ban?

Mr Orbán is seeking assurances that Hungary’s oil supply is not disrupted after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for the ban.

After weeks of push back from Budapest, the EU is set to meet to discuss the possibility of allowing pipeline deliveries.

The Hungarian leader called the compromise of allowing oil imports via pipeline “a good solution for Hungary”, but added that the country still needs guarrantees that oil imports can continue if “something happens” to the pipeline.

He said: “We need a guarantee that in the case of an accident with the pipeline … we have to have the right to get Russian oil from other sources,”

“If we get it, it’s fine.”

What has the EU said about the Russian oil import ban?

In the past few weeks, the EU has faced pushback from Mr Orbán on the plan.

The organisation offered Hungary a two-year delay in introducing the ban to allow the country to upgrade refineries and create new oil trade routes with other neighbouring countries including Croatia.

Many EU member countries have resisted the calls to allow pipeline imports, stating that it would give countries who benefit from cheap Russian oil an unfair advantage, however some are considering compromising due to the stalemate the country and the organisation currently find themselves in.

One senior EU official said: “To have no agreement or drag things further would be the worst, but to see blackmailing consequences is also disappointing.”

Who is Viktor Orbán?

Viktor Orbán has been the Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010.

He served one term previous to his current term, having been elected in the role from 1998 to 2002, and was most recently re-elected in April 2022.

Mr Orbán is a member of the right-wing party Fidesz and is also Hungary’s longest-serving Prime Minister, as well as being the European Union’s longest-serving incumbent head of government.

The Hungarian leader has been noted for his allyship of Vladimir Putin, being the first EU leader to meet with the Russian president after the invasion of Ukraine in February.

Mr Orbán described this meeting as a “peacekeeping mission”.

The country has taken in Ukrainian refugees and supported the the country’s application to the EU, but have stopped short of supplying weaponry to Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces.

The Ukrainian president singled out Mr Orbán for his ban on the transfer of arms during a meeting of EU leaders, saying: “Hungary … I want to stop here and be honest. Once and for all. You have to decide for yourself who you are with. Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol?”

After the Hungarian leader won the 2022 election and was re-elected for the third time in this premiership, Mr Orbán stoke tensions, telling the Hungarian people: “We never had so many opponents. Brussels bureaucrats... the international mainstream media, and the Ukrainian president.”

Following his win at the 2022 election, President Putin sent him his congratulations.

It read: “Despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral ties of partnership fully accords with the interests of the peoples of Russia and Hungary.”