New sanctions against Russia stuck in limbo over Greek-Hungarian protest 

Press play to listen to this article

Voiced by artificial intelligence.

Hungary has won an unlikely ally.

Five EU diplomats told POLITICO that after largely playing alone in its opposition to Russian sanctions, Budapest is now receiving backing from Athens on fresh measures against Russia.

The European Union is currently discussing its 11th sanctions package against Russia, following the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. While the previous 10 sanctions packages focused on measures to empty Vladimir Putin’s war chest, Brussels now wants to avoid being sidelined with its sanctions. In an unprecedented move for the block, the current package could Target Other countries are helping Moscow avoid its trade sanctions.

But Budapest and Athens have put a collective deadlock on the work by linking their approval of the package to a separate thorny issue involving Ukraine. Kiev has compiled List It calls private companies “war sponsors”, which include several European companies.

The odd couple want some of their companies off the list before agreeing to a sanctions package. While these issues are not normally linked, Hungary and Greece are using the sanctions package as political leverage to get their companies off Ukraine’s list.

It raised tensions at a meeting of EU foreign ministers earlier this week, where German Foreign Minister Annalena Bierbock attended directly criticized HungaryAccording to diplomats familiar with the exchange.

Four diplomats said Greece was at the forefront of discussions at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday. Athens pushed back against suggestions to circumvent the sanction.

“Greece reiterated that, should there be concrete evidence of sanctions violations, these should be brought to the attention of the relevant member states at the technical level, so that it can be adequately investigated and then appropriate action taken,” said an EU diplomat familiar with the dossier. he said. “In the case of the Ukrainian name and shame list, Greek companies are accused as international war sponsors, even though they are not violating the sanctions measures against Russia.”

Another EU diplomat said that while he sympathized with the Greek position, “the question is how much damage [their economy], And Greece says it is very harmful. We have no problem with that position – but independently we certainly want the next sanctions package.”

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has already vowed to work through differences over the Ukrainian list. The two diplomats said it was now up to them to work with the Ukrainians on a solution.

no deal in sight

Another EU diplomat said that, as long as Hungary and Greece refuse to agree on anything before their companies are out of the list, “there is really no pressure on the other parts to move forward.”

Yet diplomats also say they see Athens and Budapest differently. Frustration levels with Budapest run high, given its pro-Russia and pro-China line has often prevented the EU from agreeing on statements on Moscow and Beijing. It is also blocking the approval of the eighth tranche of EU funds to reimburse military aid to Ukraine.

Bolshak oil plant in the offshore oil field near Atrau, Kazakhstan | Pool photo by Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

A new version of the package, sent to EU envoys on Wednesday and seen by POLITICO, does not include major changes. The third draft adopts some technical language regarding the release of frozen assets and clarifies that Kazakh oil can still be sent to Europe via the Druzhba pipeline. It also adds more than 50 additional Russian companies for which EU officials cannot authorize transfers of dual-use goods and technology, compared to the previous version of the sanctions draft.

In both meetings this week, Germany and others were re Skeptic about naming and defaming other countries because they fear it will damage diplomatic relations or drive other countries suspicious of Russia or China into the arms of sanctions facilitation.

It is not yet clear when EU envoys will discuss the sanctions package again. The two diplomats said there is consensus on one thing: finally agreeing on a package.

But with no clear deadline yet in place, it could take some time for diplomats to make concrete progress. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna Said Monday’s package is to be wrapped up by the next Foreign Affairs Council – but it isn’t until june 26 and comes days before the European Heads of State and Government meeting at the end of the month. However, some diplomats opposed that suggestion, saying a deal had to be made sooner to avoid embarrassing the EU.