difficult negotiations within the EU over an embargo on Russian oil

Published on : Changed :

Brussels (AFP) – A new version of the European embargo project on Russian oil with changes demanded by several member states is being discussed in Brussels on Friday, but Hungary is blocking the proposal, multiple diplomatic sources told AFP.

“If no agreement is reached this weekend, I should convene an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers next week after Europe Day,” said EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrel.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sharpened his tone on Friday, saying the European Commission’s proposal to ban purchases of oil and petroleum products from Russia by the end of the year undermines the unity of the European Union.

“We made it clear from the start that there is a red line, namely the energy embargo. You’ve crossed that line,” he said in a radio interview.

Negotiations at the level of the ambassadors of the member states are “complicated”, confided a diplomat. Unanimity of the 27 is required for sanctions to be passed.

“Hungary has a problem and they (the ambassadors) have to solve it. Technical clarifications are needed and will take some time. It will continue over the weekend for technical, not political, work,” explained a European diplomat who was briefed on the discussions.

“The approach of Hungarians in the space is very different from what you hear from Orban in Budapest,” he said.

“The problem with sanctions is that the deal has to go through capitals,” said another diplomat.

The proposal, presented to member states on Wednesday, calls for a freeze on crude oil imports within six months and on refined products by the end of 2022. It grants Hungary and Slovakia, two dependent landlocked countries, a one-year waiver until the end of 2023 for supplies via the Druzhba pipeline.

The duration of this exception was considered insufficient by Hungary and Slovakia. And the Czech Republic has asked to benefit from it.

This term was extended to the end of 2024 in the new version of the project discussed on Friday, and the Czech Republic is also given this option, it said.

In 2021, Russia provided 30% of crude oil and 15% of petroleum products purchased by the EU. The three countries requesting an exemption account for “a small percentage” of purchases, the commission pointed out.

The inclusion of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a clear supporter of the Russian offensive, among the new figures on the EU blacklist is also controversial.

The sixth package of sanctions against Russia also targets the financial sector, with the largest Russian bank Sberkank (37% of the Russian market) and two other banking institutions excluded from the international financial system Swift. And three Russian TV channels, including Russia 24 and Russia RTR, would be banned from broadcasting in the EU, the document seen by AFP said.

“Time is running out,” said one diplomat. “I think an agreement can be reached by Sunday,” said one of his counterparts.

“The countries that are hesitating today are not ready yet,” admitted EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.

“They don’t have access to the sea and we are discussing with them to find solutions (…) so that they have the guarantee of having enough oil delivered to them,” she explained in a video conference at a congress of the German daily newspaper FAZ.

“I am confident that we will accept this package. If it takes another day, it will take another day,” she said.

The aim is for the sixth package of European sanctions to come into force to celebrate the 72nd day of Europe on May 9th. This date is also celebrated in Russia as “Victory Day” over Nazi Germany.

Leave a Comment