EU sanctions efforts on Russia slowed by oil dependence

BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union tries to impose new round of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine war It appeared to be in trouble on Monday as a small group of countries opposed a ban on Russian oil imports.

The EU has imposed five rounds of sanctions on Moscow since Russia invaded on February 24. President Vladimir Putin, senior officials, more than 350 lawmakers and pro-Kremlin oligarchs have been hit by asset freezes and travel bans. Banks, transport departments and so-called propaganda agencies were targeted.

A goal that might have taken years to achieve in the past has been achieved in less than three months — a relative speed of light for the 27-nation bloc.But limiting Russia’s energy revenue by weaning itself off oil — not to mention gas supplies — has proven to be a more difficult problem to solve.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, proposes a sixth set of war sanctions on May 4 These include a ban on oil imports from Russia. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged at the time that it was “not easy” to get everyone’s consent.

Hungary is one of many landlocked countries that are highly dependent on Russian oil, along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations. More than 60% of Hungary’s oil and 85% of its natural gas come from Russia.

“We will do our best to lift the blockade. I cannot guarantee it will happen because the position is quite strong,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters as he arrived in Brussels to chair a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“Some member countries face more difficulties because they are more dependent and because they are landlocked,” Borrell said. “They only have oil through pipelines and it comes from Russia.”

Muddy waters are Hungarian Prime Minister Orban’s relationship with Putin. Orban is widely regarded as one of the Russian leader’s closest European allies. He has only reluctantly backed previous EU sanctions, including a phased embargo on Russian coal.

Since taking office in 2010, Orbán has deepened Hungary’s dependence on Russian energy, saying his geography and energy infrastructure make an oil shutdown impossible. His EU partners are divided over what they believe has led him to be reluctant to target oil.

“The entire union is being held hostage by one member state,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabriel Landsbergis. He said the European Commission’s proposal for member states to phase out Russian oil by Dec. 31, 2024, “Everyone thought that was enough”.

But his Irish counterpart Simon Coveney acknowledged that “these are difficult, difficult issues for some countries”, adding: “Let’s not focus on obstacles and negatives today.”

At the same time, Coveney said, “We need to move on and do that. We need to send a very clear signal to the Kremlin and Moscow that the cost of their ongoing war in Ukraine will continue to increase, which is totally unacceptable. Makes sense.”

Currently, the ball is on the pitch in Hungary as the most vocal member of the opposition. Orban appears to be seeking EU money for energy infrastructure investment, officials said. Any compromise can only be found in his talks with von der Leyen, not between ministers.

The oil standoff has raised questions about whether the EU has reached the harmonized limit of its sanctions. It could get tougher against Russia’s gas industry, on which more countries depend.

Officials said before Monday’s meeting that a political deal could be reached on a fourth funding to help supply arms to Ukraine. It will bring the total amount available to finance the purchase of weapons and other non-lethal aid to 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion).


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