Russian oil embargo could be part of next EU sanctions package, ministers say

A European Union flag flies in front of the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

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  • The Commission prepares the grounds for embargo
  • Ireland, Baltics for, Hungary against
  • Governments wary of rising energy prices

LUXEMBOURG, April 11 (Reuters) – The European Union executive is preparing proposals for an EU oil embargo against Russia, the foreign ministers of Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands said on Monday. , although there is still no agreement to ban Russian crude.

“They are working now to make sure oil is part of the next sanctions package,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said of the European Commission as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg. .

“The European Union is spending hundreds of millions of euros to import oil from Russia, which certainly contributes to the financing of this war. We must cut this financing (…) the sooner the better,” added Coveney.

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His Dutch and Lithuanian counterparts also said they were willing to look for ways to target Russian oil, which accounts for around a quarter of EU crude imports, in order to pressure Russia to stop the bombardment of Ukrainian cities.

“We are looking at all the others (sanctions), including energy,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, a position echoed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said that an EU oil embargo was to occur ‘sooner or later’.

The European Parliament voted last week for an embargo, although its decision is not binding.

NO CONSENSUS

Galvanized by what Ukraine says are senseless killings of civilians by Russian troops since invading Moscow on February 24, the bloc last week approved a fifth round of sanctions against Russia, which included an end to imports of Russian coal.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on April 5 that she was considering additional sanctions, including on oil imports, based in part on proposals from EU governments. These ideas include imposing tariffs on Russian oil or banning certain petroleum products, according to EU diplomats.

Any oil embargo relies both on the technical details of the scope and timeframe for such a measure and on the support of the 27 EU member states. Energy dependence varies widely across blocs, with countries like Bulgaria almost totally dependent on Russian oil. Hungary said it could not support an oil embargo.

Germany’s position as the EU’s largest economy will be crucial. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who arrived in Luxembourg, called for a “coordinated plan to phase out fossil fuels completely” from Russia, but EU diplomats said Berlin did not actively support an immediate embargo.

The United States and Britain have banned Russian oil, hoping to cut off an important source of income for Moscow. The decision is more difficult for the European economy due to its dependence and could drive up already high energy prices.

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Reporting by Robin Emmott and Bart Meijer, additional reporting by Paul Carrel, editing by Ed Osmond

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