EU takes major step towards Russian oil ban » Borneo Bulletin Online

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s (EU) top official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said.

The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member countries – some of them landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies – to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy”. The EU gets about 25 per cent of its oil from Russia, most of which goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles.

Russia supplies about 14 per cent of diesel, S&P Global analysts said, and a cutoff could send already high prices for truck and tractor fuel soaring.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. PHOTO: AP

If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second package of EU sanctions targetting Russia’s lucrative energy industry since the country invaded Ukraine on February 24. In a video message posted on Twitter, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed Von der Leyen’s proposal for an oil embargo.

He said Ukraine is not happy it will be delayed for several months, but “it’s better than nothing”. “I think what should be clear now is that (the time) for half-sanctions or half-measures when it comes to sanctions is gone,” Kuleba said, arguing that the EU can no longer support Ukraine on one hand by imposing sanctions, while continuing to pay Russia for oil and gas and support their “war machine”. “As long as Russia continues to receive revenues in billions… from the EU… we cannot speak of defeating Russia,” he said. “They will continue financing their war machine from oil and gas revenues.” In addition to sanctions on various entities and individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of his family, the EU previously approved an embargo on coal imports.

The EU has started discussions on a possible natural gas embargo, but consensus among member countries on targetting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult to secure. The region gets about 40 per cent of its natural gas from Russia. Hungary and Slovakia previously said they wouldn’t take part in any oil sanctions.

Von der Leyen didn’t elaborate on whether they would receive an exemption from the sanctions, although it appeared likely.

Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulik said on Wednesday that Slovakia was not against the punishing measures but is asking for a transition period of three years.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his country is ready to support the package but also needs to be allowed more time – about two or three years – before it can implement a ban on Russian oil, in order to increase the capacity of pipelines to get oil from other sources.