European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen (bottom right) applauds Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky at a recent meeting with the EU. Photo: REUTERS
The heads of the European Union (EU) countries will begin a summit on Monday amid massive efforts to overcome divisions and find a way to reach an agreement on a bloc embargo on russian gas imports.
The ambassadors of the bloc countries held an emergency meeting on Sunday that continued Monday morning to try to make way for an agreement, but incidental sources pointed out that no significant progress has been made.
Russia’s oil embargo proposal is part of the EU’s sixth sanctions package but fell into opposition of Hungary, which justifies this position by claiming that a ban on Russia’s oil represents a threat to its energy security.
A group of protesters calling for Russia’s 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 stages”, said a European diplomat. The first phase will focus on Russian oil reaching the EU by sea.
Under that plan, a second phase focused on crude coming through the pipeline will be made, although details in particular about the terms will be discussed “later”expressed the same diplomat.
The political agreement to implement that plan in two chapters will be reached “probably this week,” he added.
Skepticism before the European Union summit
Arriving for a meeting in Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was candid about the chances of leaders at this summit announcing a final position on the Russian oil embargo proposal.
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 can get along now”, 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 the AFP, only mentioned that EU leaders were calling for adoption “without delay” of the sixth package of sanctionsincluding the embargo “with a temporary exemption for crude delivered by the pipeline.”
The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, plans to connect via videoconference at 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, requested an exemption from the import ban.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is the main opponent of Russia’s gas embargo imposition. Photo: AFP
Diplomats said the affected countries had been given a two-year delay in the embargo, but Budapest wanted at least four years and nearly 800 million euros in European funds to retrofit its refineries.
Encouraged 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 desire to the issue of the oil embargo was discussed at the summit.
The adoption of Russia’s crude embargo that reaches the EU by sea “will affect at least 2/3 of oil exports” from Russia, a European official asserted.
Among the technical points discussed “we need be careful to maintain the standard 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 in list of authorized Russian officials.