An embargo on Russian oil across the bloc is increasingly likely, with Austria, Hungary and Slovakia now having withdrawn their veto, according to German broadcaster ZDF. It comes before the EU hits Russia with a sixth round of crippling economic sanctions.
Diplomats have said that European countries such as Slovakia and Hungary have opposed a swift import ban, mainly because of their heavy reliance on Russian oil supplies, according to ZDF.
In several southern European countries, the anticipated increase in energy prices for consumers after an embargo has raised serious concerns.
Earlier today, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he told the EU’s top diplomat that the bloc’s next round of sanctions must include an oil embargo on Russia.
He wrote on Twitter after his call with Josep Borrell: “I spoke with @JosepBorrellF about the next round of EU sanctions on Russia, which must include an oil embargo.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister added: “I also emphasized that there can be no alternative to giving Ukraine the status of a candidate for the EU.
“We pay separate attention to further safe evacuation from besieged Mariupol.”
The EU is now leaning increasingly towards a ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year, Reuters quoted two EU diplomats as saying.
Talks have been held this weekend between the European Commission and EU member states.
Brussels is preparing another package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine just over two months ago.
The new round of measures is expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks, as well as more people and companies.
The EU Commission has held so-called “confessional” talks with small groups of EU countries and is seeking to finalize its sanctions plan in time for a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.
EU energy ministers will also meet in the Belgian capital on Monday to discuss the issue.
Diplomats said some EU countries were able to stop using oil before the end of the year, but others, particularly nations further south, were concerned about the subsequent impact on prices.
Germany appeared willing to stick with the year-end cut, according to diplomats, but Austria, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia had reservations.
Joerg Kukies, an adviser to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said his country supported an EU ban on Russian oil imports but needed a few months to secure alternatives.
The Financial Times quoted him as saying: “We are asking for a considered wind-up period.
“We want to stop buying Russian oil, but we need some time to make sure we can get other sources of oil in our country.”
Kukies insisted that the country wanted to ensure that a refinery in Schwedt, run by Russia’s state oil company Rosneft, could receive non-Russian oil transported by tankers to Rostock in the Baltic Sea.
He added that to allow this, the port of Rostock would have to be deepened and more work on the pipeline connecting it to Schwedt.
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