EU insists Russia oil embargo will go ahead

EU insists Russia oil embargo will go ahead

Flexibility offered to countries that need time to find other supply sources

A worker inspects equipment at a receiving station on the Druzhba pipeline that carries petroleum from Russia to Hungary at an MOL Company refinery in Szazhalombatta, 30 kilometres south of Budapest. (AFP Photo)
A worker inspects equipment at a receiving station on the Druzhba pipeline that carries petroleum from Russia to Hungary at an MOL Company refinery in Szazhalombatta, 30 kilometres south of Budapest. (AFP Photo)

BRUSSELS: The European Union still aims to agree on a phased embargo on Russia oil this month despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe, four diplomats and officials said on Friday, rejecting suggestions of a delay or watering down of proposals.

Dependence on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia poses the biggest obstacle to an embargo deal that the European Commission proposed in early May in response to Russia’s Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.

However, the diplomats and officials said they were optimistic about a deal, even as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has struggled to convince Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the most vocal critic of the proposed embargo.

“There will be a deal,” a senior EU diplomat said, noting that there was flexibility in the proposed transition and investment levels for countries relying on Russian oil who will need to find other sources of supply.

A second senior diplomat said that agreement was possible as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, after technical talks expected over the weekend.

A third diplomat said there was a chance of an agreement later in the week. “This is going to be decided at the highest political level, between Budapest and Brussels. I am optimistic,” the diplomat said.

Whereas most EU states will have to fully implement a Russian oil embargo by the end of the year, Hungary has obtained an exemption until the end of 2024, as has Slovakia, and the Czech Republic would have until mid-2024.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to also call for more economic sanctions, more weapons and more financial support when he joins his EU counterparts on Monday.


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