Russian oil embargo could be part of next EU sanctions package, say ministers

"We are looking at all other [sanctions], including energy," said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra (Left) [European Union]

The European Union’s executive is drafting proposals for an EU oil embargo on Russia, the foreign ministers of Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands said on Monday (11 April), although there is still no agreement to ban Russian crude.

“They are now working on ensuring that oil is part of the next sanctions package,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney about the European Commission as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.

“The European Union is spending hundreds of millions of euros on importing oil from Russia that is certainly contributing to financing this war. We need to cut off that financing … the sooner that can happen, the better,” Coveney added.

His Dutch and Lithuanian counterparts also said they were open to looking at ways of targeting Russian oil, which makes up about a quarter of the EU’s crude imports, as a means to pressure Russia to halt the shelling of Ukrainian cities.

“We are looking at all other [sanctions], including energy,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

It is a position echoed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who has said an EU oil embargo must happen “sooner or later”.

Last week, the European Parliament also called for a ban on oil, as well as coal, gas and nuclear fuel, although the decision is not binding.

Next EU sanctions against Russia to target coal imports, shipping and road transport

A set of sweeping new sanctions against Russia, including banning imports of coal, was proposed by the European Commission on Tuesday (5 April) in a first attempt at curbing Moscow’s energy exports.

The proposal will be considered by EU member state …

No consensus

Galvanised by what Ukraine calls senseless killings of civilians by Russian troops – something the Kremlin denies – the EU approved the fifth package of sanctions last week that included an end to Russian coal imports

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on 5 April that she was considering additional sanctions, including on oil imports, based in part on proposals from EU governments.

Those ideas include imposing tariffs on Russian oil or a ban on some oil products, according to EU diplomats.

Approval for an oil embargo rests on the technical details of the scope, the phase-in time and support from the EU’s 27 member states.

Energy dependence varies widely across the bloc, with countries such as Bulgaria almost totally dependent on Russian oil. Meanwhile, Hungary has said it cannot support an oil embargo.

As the EU’s biggest economy, Germany’s stance on such a measure will be crucial.

On her arrival in Luxembourg, Berlin’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, called for a “coordinated plan to completely phase out fossil fuels” from Russia, but EU diplomats have said Berlin is not actively supporting an immediate embargo.

In an attempt to cut off a significant revenue source for Moscow, the United States has already banned Russian oil, and the UK will phase it out by the end of the year.

But the decision is harder for Europe’s economy due to its dependency and could push up already high energy prices.

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