EU begins considering delaying oil sanctions as Hungary digs in
(Bloomberg) – Some European Union countries say it may be time to consider delaying a ban on Russian oil so they can pursue the rest of a proposed sanctions package if the bloc doesn’t. fails to persuade Hungary to support the embargo.
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Governments have not backed down from their goal of striking a deal with Budapest on the whole package, including a phased oil ban, by Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels , according to European diplomats.
But the idea of delaying the decision against Russian oil, which Hungary says would be too damaging to its economy, is gaining ground, the diplomats added. Other countries, however, fear removing it now could be a sign of weakness, another diplomat said.
Hungarian Viktor Orban has previously suggested that any oil ban should be discussed by European leaders at a summit. The next one is scheduled for the end of May.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Friday he would push foreign ministers to “give the political impetus” for the package, including the oil embargo, if ambassadors fail to reach an agreement by then.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had scheduled a video call with Orban and regional leaders earlier this week to discuss a possible compromise. But the call has been postponed and has not yet been rescheduled.
The EU proposal aims to ban crude oil within the next six months and refined fuels by early January. The bloc had offered Hungary and Slovakia until the end of 2024 to comply with sanctions and the Czech Republic until June of the same year as they rely heavily on Russian crude.
Hungary hardened its public stance on Wednesday, saying it would only withdraw its threat to block an embargo if its pipeline imports were excluded.
Other countries, including Bulgaria, have also started asking for exemptions to the proposed ban.
“We have asked for and will get the same oil embargo exemptions that other European countries are getting,” Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told lawmakers in Sofia on Friday. “When it is important for Bulgaria, when we support our policy, we can defend our interests.”
EU sanctions require the unanimous support of all 27 members. In addition to the oil ban, the bloc’s proposal for a sixth round of sanctions includes plans to cut three other Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system and would ban providing advisory and public relations services to Russian companies, among others. measures.
An EU strategy to wean itself off Russian energy by 2027, which is expected next week, is expected to outline the limited investment that will be needed in oil infrastructure in the short term to ensure security of supply for countries that are entirely dependent on pipeline oil from Russia.
(Updates with Borrell, Bulgaria quotes from fifth paragraph)
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