New EU proposal: More time for Eastern Europeans in the oil embargo?

Status: 05/06/2022 13:09

Hungary and Slovakia may have until the end of 2024 to stop buying oil from Russia after heavy criticism over the planned sanctions plan against Russia. This is apparently what a new proposal from the European Commission envisages.

In the fight for an oil embargo against Russia, the European Commission is apparently approaching the countries of Eastern Europe. An EU diplomat told Reuters and dpa news agencies that Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could benefit from longer transition periods before stopping imports. Hungary and Slovakia should be able to get Russian oil by the end of 2024.

The Czech Republic could therefore have until June 2024 to fully implement the stoppage of deliveries. In the event that an alternative pipeline is completed before this date, the Prague embargo may apply earlier.

Suggestions are subject to change

The proposals have been discussed by the permanent representatives of the EU countries and are subject to change. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was not easy to reach an agreement and quickly enforce the oil embargo. Member States are differently prepared for such an approach. “I’m confident we’ll have that package on the way as well. If it takes another day, it just takes another day.”

The European Commission had submitted Wednesday evening to the Member States a first draft of the sixth European package of sanctions against Russia. It initially predicted that Slovakia and Hungary would be allowed to buy Russian oil until the end of 2023, as they are particularly dependent on supply. All other countries are expected to stop Russian supplies of crude oil in six months and petroleum products such as diesel and kerosene in eight months.

Orbán: “Nuclear bomb for the economy”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán strongly criticized the Commission’s initiative. “This is equivalent to dropping an atomic bomb on the Hungarian economy,” the right-wing politician told state radio.

According to its own calculations, Hungary would need five years to switch to oil without Russian imports. “A year or a year and a half delay doesn’t help,” Orbán said. Within the EU, Hungary is the country that maintains the closest ties with Russia.

A step in the right direction for the Czech Republic

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala spoke of a step in the right direction. Slovakia and the Czech Republic had also requested a transitional period of three years for oil imports.

Fiala and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced after a meeting in Berlin on Thursday evening that they would expand their cooperation in the energy sector. According to Fiala, among others, the possibility of increasing the capacity of the TAL pipeline between Italy and Germany has been discussed, in order to thus supply enough oil to the Czech Republic.

Berlin signals its approval

The federal government has signaled its approval that some EU countries may have more time to implement an oil embargo against Russia. A government spokeswoman said the Chancellor stressed that any kind of embargo should hit Russia harder than Germany or EU partners. With this in mind, consultations on “possible exceptions or extensions” should be considered.

This does not mean that severe sanctions against Russia are absolutely necessary. But it’s about the supply situation in those countries, according to the spokeswoman. The fact is that these countries are supported to become as quickly as possible independent of Russian oil and gas in the medium term.

All countries must agree

For the sanctions package to be implemented, all countries must agree. The aim is to decide the sanctions package this weekend. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said if there was no agreement between states this weekend he would call a special meeting of foreign ministers next week.

An agreement must be reached quickly, Borrell said. He firmly believes that this can be achieved, even if not all EU members are in the same position.

“Nuclear bomb for the Hungarian economy” – Orban rejects the oil embargo for Russia

Srdjan Govedarica, ARD Vienna, 6.5.2022 1:26 p.m.

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