Deal on EU-wide Russian oil ban possible as soon as this week: France

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Adeal on European Union-wide halting of oil imports from Russia by the end of the year, the latest response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, could be secured as soon as this week, a French official said Tuesday.

A view of PCK oil refinery in Schwedt, Germany, May 9, 2022. (EPA Photo)

A view of PCK oil refinery in Schwedt, Germany, May 9, 2022. (EPA Photo)

The embargo, part of the sixth package of EU sanctions under discussion, is being resisted by some member states that rely on Russian oil to keep their economies running and are seeking guarantees of alternative sources.

“I think we can have an accord this week, we’re working flat out on it,” France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune told LCI television. “It’s probably a matter of days.”

“We have to move quickly, and I say with confidence that there will be the sixth package of European sanctions, they will be very strong and we will gradually get out of using Russia oil at first, but also Russian hydrocarbons in general,” he said.

New discussions will be held between European leaders by telephone on Tuesday, involving French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Beaune added.

Landlocked Hungary has blocked progress in discussions to adopt the latest sanctions targeting Russia for its war in Ukraine, and ambassadors from the 27 EU countries have so far failed to agree on the details of the new round of measures.

Orban is insisting on EU funding guarantees for building new pipelines and other infrastructure needed to wean his country off Russian oil, and wants to be able to keep importing from Russia for several more years.

Von der Leyen has proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.

Budapest had said it would not vote for the proposed sanctions, warning it would have the effect of an “atomic bomb” on its economy and would destroy its “stable energy supply.”

Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been offered permission to continue importing Russian oil until the end of 2024 in the talks that began last week, but they also want help securing new sources of oil and retooling their refineries.

Von der Leyen on Monday said there had been “progress” during talks with Orban in Budapest.

“There are two types of exemption possibilities: the delay for certain countries for which it is obviously difficult, because 100 percent of their oil comes from Russia, and then guarantees on alternative sourcing. These are the two parameters that we’re working on,” Beaune said.

Unanimous approval by the 27 EU members is needed for the new sanctions, the sixth package since Moscow launched its assault on Ukraine on Feb. 24.

In 2021, Russia supplied the bloc with 30% of its crude oil and 15% of its petroleum products.