EU divided over any new Russia energy sanctions

Brussels, Mar 25 (EFE).- European Union (EU) leaders late Thursday at a summit in Brussels did not take up new sanctions against Russia for its war on Ukraine, as the United States and the United Kingdom have done, but were divided over the topic of energy.

The objective of the marathon of summits in Brussels, which began with a NATO meeting, followed by another of the G7 and ended with one of the European Council, in which US President Joe Biden participated as a guest, was to highlight the unity of the Western partners against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The European leaders held a 90-minute debate with Biden, in which they insisted on the need for Washington and the 27 EU members to remain united and aligned in their sanctions and the humanitarian crisis generated by the war, according to European sources.

In the conclusions approved at the end of the meeting, the EU again demanded Moscow stop its attacks, allow the creation of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, give access to humanitarian aid and release hostages.

Washington and the EU also reflected in a statement their “readiness to adopt additional measures and to stop any attempts to circumvent sanctions” but, after four packages of sanctions against the Russian economy enforced so far, no new measures were announced.

Ukraine’s president Volodomyr Zelenskyy also took part in the summit by videoconference. He thanked Western countries for their military and humanitarian support, according to community sources, but called for more sanctions against Moscow and, specifically, its powerful energy sector that fuels Putin’s war machine.

Despite the transatlantic alignment, the EU does not want to ban imports of Russian fossil fuels as the US has done, highlighting the bloc’s reliance on oil, gas and coal for energy and industry.

Countries such as Poland, Finland and the Baltics, bordering Russia, want to take the hardest line to put an end to the conflict as soon as possible.

But the majority of the EU believe that it would be counterproductive, since the point of corrective measures is to do more harm to the sanctioned party than to the sanctioning party, and can be sustained over time.

The US is an energy producer whose Russian imports are marginal (8 percent of oil and refined products, 5 percent of coal and 0.5 percent of gas in 2021) while Russian fuels have critical weight in the EU (27 percent oil, 46 percent coal and 40 percent gas).

“We are not at war against ourselves,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, whose position coincides with that of Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, which considers that banning Russian fossil fuels would mean throwing the EU into an economic recession.

“Sanctions must always have a much bigger impact on the Russian side than on ours,” he added.

However, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said: “As long as we are purchasing energy from Russia, we are financing the war.”

She was backed by Baltic leaders such as Latvia in demanding swift action. EFE


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