No guarantee on oil embargo against Russia: EU

The European Union is debating an embargo on Russian crude oil and petroleum products, as well as restrictions on the shipping of oil and products from Russia

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Monday, May 16, 2022, 03:17 PM IST
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The European Union’s top diplomat says there is no guarantee that the 27-nation bloc will be able to quickly agree on a new set of sanctions against Russia, as a small group of countries led by Hungary oppose an oil embargo.

The European Commission proposed on May 4 a sixth package of Ukraine war sanctions that included a ban on oil imports from Russia. Hungary is one of a number of landlocked countries that are highly dependent on Russian oil, along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says “we will do our best in order to deblock the situation. I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because positions are quite strong.” His remarks Monday came as he prepared to chair a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

Borrell says “that some member states face more difficulties because they are more dependent, because they are landlocked,” and that “they only have oil through pipelines, and coming from Russia.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says “the whole union is being held hostage by one member state.” He says countries like Hungary were offered a phase out of Russian oil until Dec 31, 2024, and that “everybody expected that this would be enough.”

The European Union is debating an embargo on Russian crude oil and petroleum products, as well as restrictions on the shipping of oil and products from Russia. If approved, the ban will likely include a longer phase-in period for some countries, and Russia will be able to divert some volumes to Asia. But EU measures would force Russia to shut in some production, tightening the oil market and driving up prices.

One week since European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced her blueprint for a sixth package of Russia sanctions, the bloc is no closer to signing off on the plan.

Despite offering more time to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to comply with the ban on oil imports, Budapest continues to hold up a deal. Banning oil from Russia would be devastating to Hungary's economy, Orbán has said. The crisis is also a chance for the recently reelected Hungarian premier to assert his influence.

Von der Leyen wants to target Vladimir Putin's oil exports as a means of shutting off a vital source of funding for the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

Talks between von der Leyen and Orbán on Monday ended without a deal, and a follow-up videoconference between the Commission and regional players, which was due to discuss cooperation on oil infrastructure, has not been scheduled yet.

The meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday resulted in no more clarity on the timing of any agreement, the diplomats said. One reason for the delay is that the sanctions package is set to be linked to the forthcoming REPowerEU strategy for ending the bloc's reliance on Russian fossil fuels, due to be published on May 18.

Under the energy plan, financing and infrastructure reforms are likely to be considered to help those countries — such as Hungary — which face the greatest difficulties moving away from Russian oil and gas.

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