There are completely new sounds that can be heard in Brussels from Berlin: the Germans no longer need to be urged to introduce energy sanctions against Russia – they push them themselves. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner confirmed in statements on Sunday and Monday that the Federal Government supports a European ban on Russian oil imports. According to information from the SZ, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to present a draft of what is now the sixth sanctions package – with the oil embargo as the main element – by Wednesday this week in later, so that EU ambassadors from the 27 member countries can discuss it for the first time that day.
During the preparatory meetings of ambassadors to the EU last week, the German side adopted a surprisingly aggressive position. Germany advocated an oil embargo with appropriate transition periods. What these deadlines might look like, just a few weeks or at least until the end of the year, there was apparently no agreement between the Commission and the Member States, at least on Monday afternoon. In order to achieve unanimity, special rules are being discussed for Slovakia and especially Hungary, which are particularly dependent on Russian oil. The Hungarian government confirmed on Monday that it was not prepared to stop imports. The Commission does not need to bother to put on the table a proposal that restricts Hungarian imports.
Robert Habeck said on Monday that the German government considered an immediate embargo manageable, but would like a transitional period of a few weeks. But other countries are not that far off and do not want to trigger economic disasters in Europe. An immediate ban on imports would also have serious consequences in Germany, Habeck warned. “We have created a situation in which Germany can carry out an oil embargo,” the minister said in Berlin. But that does not mean that the embargo will leave Germany untouched. And this applies above all to East Germany.
It was only on Sunday that the ministry presented a second “progress report” on dependence on Russian raw materials. Instead of the original 35% of all crude oil imports, only 12% now comes from Russia, it says. But these mainly supplied the Schwedt an der Oder refinery which, in addition, essentially belongs to the Russian group Rosneft. It is directly connected to the Druzhba gas pipeline from Russia – and it supplies, among other things, the greater Berlin region.
“It will be bumpy there,” Habeck said in the event of an immediate halt to imports. “We cannot guarantee that the supply will always be guaranteed.” There will “certainly be high price jumps” or “temporal failures”, the minister said. But that no longer means “that we, as a country, as a nation, are going to sink into an oil crisis”.
Robert Habeck also specified that the economic consequences of the oil embargo for Russia were not foreseeable. Because an embargo could drive up prices worldwide – and all oil exporters, including those in Russia, would then benefit. “If Putin makes more money selling less oil, then we traded lemons,” Habeck said. “Or swapped oil, but bit the sour lemon.” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently warned of the consequences of a European oil embargo: Russian President Vladimir Putin could benefit from higher prices, while the economy in Europe and elsewhere of the world could be damaged.
Minister Habeck arrived in Brussels on Monday afternoon, where European energy ministers met for a special meeting. The main question should be how to organize European solidarity in gas supply and what infrastructure should be developed for this purpose. The short-term reason was Russia’s decision to stop supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria. Other EU countries have already promised to compensate with non-Russian gas.
Polish Minister Anna Moskwa assured the pre-meeting meeting that her country was on the safe side and called on the European Union to impose not only an oil embargo but also a full gas embargo on Russia this week. Moskva also called on other EU countries not to accept a new method of payment for gas deliveries in rubles demanded by Vladimir Putin. The group also wanted to discuss it.