EU still without agreement on sanctioning Russian crude

Brussels, May 16 (EFE).- The foreign ministers of European Union member states on Monday were not able to reach an agreement whereby Hungary would forego exerting its right to veto plans to sanction imports of Russian crude oil and the talks will continue on a sixth round of sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re continuing to discuss, and unfortunately today it wasn’t possible to arrive at an agreement to finalize the sixth package of sanctions,” the EU’s diplomatic chief, Josep Borrell, said at a press conference after the close of the Council of Ministers meeting, where viewpoints were exchanged with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitro Kuleba.

He said that the issue will now move to the EU’s Permanent Representatives Committee, where the ambassadors of the 27 member states “will continue discussing” the matter, given that “we’re continuing to have the same difficulties on unanimity about the veto on petroleum.”

The member states have not managed to get the unanimity required to implement the European Commission proposal of May 4 on a new sanctions package on Russia that includes banning imports of Moscow’s crude oil within six months and refined petroleum products within eight months.

Part of the proposal is also that sanctions will be levied against big Russian banks along with selective measures against the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kiril, and those responsible for committing atrocities in Ukraine.

Although an offer was made to extend the time periods within which imports of Russian crude and petroleum products for Hungary and Slovakia, which are very dependent on that energy source, would be implemented, Budapest continues to oppose the measure.

When asked about the matter, Borrell rejected the idea that Hungary’s stance had anything to do with a desire to exclude Kiril from the sanctions list.

“The discussion today clarified some matters about the difficulties facing Hungary,” Borrell said, matters that could bear on the time period for implementing the oil import ban or on the cost of doing so.

Hungary, which is a landlocked nation and cannot take shipment of oil by sea, would have to adapt its refinery structure and the capacity of the pipelines through which oil arrives from the Mediterranean through Croatia, Borrell said, going on to allude to the “permanent structural cost” of having to pay for more expensive oil from other sources.

“The relationship of the forces, geopolitical equilibria, alliances, the geopolitics of energy, will drastically change after this war” in Ukraine, the Spanish politician said.

In any case, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said that he was not afraid that the EU unanimity that has been maintained through five earlier packages of sanctions will rupture because “the support” for these new measures “is very great,” and although “there is some reticence on the part of a certain country, all has been handled very constructively.”

Borrell also said that the Council on Monday agreed to provide an additional 500 million euros ($522 million) from the European Peace Facility for the delivery of weaponry to Ukraine, bringing the total so far to 2 billion euros.

EFE rja-drs-jug/cat/fpa/bp

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