EU leaders agree on partial embargo on Russian oil
BRUSSELS European Union officials reached a compromise Monday to impose an oil embargo against Russia at a summit that focused on helping Ukraine and a long-delayed set of sanctions that was blocked in Hungary. The watered-down embargo only covers Russian oil brought in by sea and allows for temporary exemptions for imports by pipeline. Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, stated that the agreement covers more then two-thirds (or more) of Russian oil imports.
The new sanctions package will also include an asset freeze, travel ban and travel ban for individuals. Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank will be exempted from SWIFT. This is the global financial transfer system that the EU has previously banned from several smaller Russian banks. Three major Russian state-owned broadcasters won’t be allowed to distribute their content in the EU.
” We want to stop Russia’s war machine,” Michel stated, praising what he called “remarkable achievements”. “
” “It’s more important than ever to show that our country is strong, that it can be firm, and that we can be tough,” he said.
Michel stated that the new sanctions, which required the support of all 27 members, would be legally endorsed by Wednesday.
The EU has already imposed five rounds of sanctions against Russia for its war. It has targeted more than 1,000 people individually, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and top government officials as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more.
But, the sixth package of measures was delayed by concerns about oil supplies.
The bloc was embarrassed by the impasse and had to reduce its ambitions to get Hungary aboard. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, proposed the package. The initial goal was to eliminate crude oil imports within six months and refine products by the end.
Both Michel, von der Leyen stated that leaders would soon return to the topic to ensure that Russia’s oil pipeline exports to the EU are stopped at a later time.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated that he would only support the new sanctions if his country’s oil supply security were guaranteed. The country, which is landlocked, gets 60% more of its oil from Russia than it does from other countries and relies on crude oil that passes through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipe.
Ursula Von der Leyen was the head of the EU executive branch and had lowered the chances of a breakthrough at this summit. But leaders reached a compromise after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”
Von der Leyen said the punitive move will “effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.”
The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and divisions over the issue exposed the limits of the 27-nation trading bloc’s ambitions.
In his 10-minute video address, Zelenskyy told leaders to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”
He said the sanctions package must “be agreed on, it needs to be effective, including (on) oil,” so that Moscow “feels the price for what it is doing against Ukraine” and the rest of Europe. Zelenskyy stated that Russia will only then be forced to “start looking for peace ” It was not the first time he demanded that the EU target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and stop Moscow from receiving billions of dollars per day in supply payments.
But Hungary was among a group of EU nations concerned about the impact of the oil ban. This included Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria. Hungary is heavily dependent on Russia for its energy and cannot afford to shut down the pumps. Russia supplies Hungary 85% with its oil and natural gas.
Orban was clear upon arriving at the summit in Brussels, that no deal was in sight. He stressed that Hungary needed to have its energy supply secure.
Von der Leyen, Michel stated that the commitments by Germany and Poland to phaseout Russian oil by the end the year and to forgo oil coming from the Druzhba northern section of the Druzhba pipe will help reduce 90% Russian oil imports. The summit also addressed the EU’s continued financial support for Ukraine, with the endorsement of a 9-billion-euro ($9.7B) tranche of assistance. The topic of food security will be discussed Tuesday with leaders urging their governments to accelerate work on “solidarity lane” to aid Ukraine’s exports.
Many protestors gathered outside EU buildings on Monday, holding signs such as “No to Russian oil or gas.”
Karel Janicek contributed to this story from Prague.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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