The leaders of the countries of the European Union (EU) will start a summit on Monday amid enormous efforts to overcome divisions and find a way to reach an agreement on a bloc embargo on russian gas imports.
The ambassadors of the countries of the bloc held an emergency meeting on Sunday that continued on Monday morning to try to pave the way for an agreement, but coincident sources pointed out that no significant progress was made.
Russia’s oil embargo proposal is part of the EU’s sixth sanctions package but crashed into the opposition of Hungary, which justifies this position by claiming that an embargo on Russian oil represents a threat to its energy security.
A group of protesters calling for the Russian gas embargo at the gate of an EU summit in Brussels. Photo: AP
The idea launched to break the stalemate is to proceed with an embargo “in two phases”, said a European diplomat. The first phase would focus on Russian oil that reaches the EU by sea.
Under that plan, a second phase focused on crude arriving by pipeline would be adopted, although details in particular about terms would be negotiated “later”expressed the same diplomat.
That political agreement to implement that plan in two chapters would be reached “probably this week,” he added.
Skepticism ahead of the European Union summit
Arriving for a meeting in Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was candid about the chances of the leaders announcing a final position on the Russian oil embargo proposal at this summit.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Brussels for the European Union summit where the Russian gas embargo will be discussed. Photo: AP
“I don’t think we will reach an agreement today“, said Kallas, who pointed out that it would be “more realistic” to wait for that understanding at the next European summit, scheduled for the end of June.
A draft of the summit declaration, seen by AFP, mentions only that EU leaders are calling for the adoption “without delay” of the sixth package of sanctionsincluding the embargo “with a temporary exemption for crude delivered by pipeline.”
The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, plans to connect by videoconference to the meeting with his European counterparts.
Hungary, a landlocked country, imports 65% of the oil it consumes from Russia through the Druzhba pipeline and, together with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have requested an exception to the import ban.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the main opponent of imposing an embargo on Russian gas. Photo: AFP
Diplomats said affected countries have been given a two-year delay to the embargo, but that Budapest wants at least four years and almost 800 million euros in European funds to retrofit its refineries.
Bolstered by his recent re-election, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, even sent a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in which he explicitly expressed his wish that the issue of the oil embargo is discussed at the summit.
Adopting an embargo on Russian crude that reaches the EU by sea “would affect at least 2/3 of oil exports” from Russia, a European official stressed.
Among the technical points under discussion “we must be very careful to preserve the common market“, warned a diplomat.
In addition to the controversial oil embargo, the EU’s sixth plan of measures against Russia also includes the withdrawal of more banks from that country from the Swift interbank network and the inclusion of new names on the list of sanctioned Russian officials.