The European Commission has proposed its toughest sanctions yet against Russia, including a gradual oil embargo, as part of a sixth round of retaliatory measures following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday that the embargo “will be a total ban on the import of Russian oil, by sea and by pipeline, crude and refined,” which will be carried out in stages to allow time. states to find alternative energy sources.
For the proposal to be approved, it will need the support of all member states. Some countries within the 27-member bloc have voiced opposition to a full embargo.
“Today we are addressing our dependence on Russian oil, and let’s be clear, it will not be easy,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“Some member states are heavily dependent on Russian oil, but we just have to,” he added.
The envoys of the European Union countries have not yet reached an agreement, but the discussions are expected to resume on Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know about the proposed lien:
What’s in the EU plan?
The European Commission seeks to phase out supplies of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of 2022.
Under the proposal, Hungary and Slovakia could be given a longer period to adjust to the embargo, until the end of 2023.
The measures include a ban within a month on all shipping, brokerage, insurance and financing services offered by EU companies for the transport of Russian oil around the world, an EU source told the news agency. Reuters news.
The ban would apply to Russian oil exports around the world, which could affect Moscow’s ability to find alternative buyers after the EU stops buying Russian oil.
The EU chief executive also proposed adding Russia’s top bank, Sberbank, and two other financial institutions, to a list of several banks that no longer have access to the SWIFT messaging system.
If agreed, the embargo would follow the United States and the United Kingdom, which have already imposed bans in an attempt to cut off one of the biggest sources of income for the Russian economy.
Ambassadors from the 27 EU governments are widely expected to adopt the proposal this week, allowing it to become law soon after.
A similar embargo on Russian coal, imposed by the EU in April, went into effect immediately for the spot market and had a four-month settlement period for existing contracts.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Russia has been looking at various options as it prepares for an EU oil embargo.
How would a ban affect EU economies?
Russia is Europe’s largest oil supplier, providing 26 percent of the bloc’s oil imports in 2020. Germany, Poland and the Netherlands are the largest buyers of Russian oil in Europe.
Europe has paid Russia 14 billion euros ($14.94 billion) for oil since the start of what Moscow calls a special military operation in Ukraine two months ago, according to the research organization Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
The European Commission is working to speed up the availability of alternative energy supplies to try to reduce the cost of the Russian oil ban.
However, lacking sufficient and moderately priced alternatives, the EU is likely to end up facing a higher energy bill or a slowdown in economic activity.
Russian political analyst Andrey Ontikov told Al Jazeera that Moscow is likely to find other buyers outside Europe, including China and India, and said the EU would face paying higher prices for alternative oil imports.
“European countries are shooting themselves in the leg,” Ontikov said. “I can’t imagine at what price those countries will get oil [elsewhere]. Perhaps the United States will provide crude oil, but again, at what price?
Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Russian upper house’s international affairs committee, as saying that Europe will continue to buy Russian oil through third countries once it introduces an embargo.
Why was natural gas not included in the sanctions plan?
Natural gas has not yet been subject to sanctions. A possible ban has yet to be properly discussed at the EU level due to the bloc’s reliance on it.
In 2021, the EU imported more than 40 percent of its total gas consumption from Russia.
Since the gas outages that hit some eastern EU countries in the winters of 2006 and 2009, the EU has worked on a common energy policy to strengthen its energy security and internal energy market.
In 2021, energy accounted for 62 percent of the EU’s total imports from Russia, up from 77 percent in 2011, but the bloc is still a long way from reducing its reliance on Russian energy imports.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, called the gas “the elephant in the room” at Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
“European leaders want to act fast against Russia, but they are trapped in the reality of decisions that governments across Europe made for decades, when they thought it was in their best interest to make deals with President Putin,” he said.
However, the EU Commission has taken steps to end its dependence on Russian gas.
On March 8, it published its “REPowerEU” plan, outlining measures to drastically reduce Russian gas imports before the end of the year and achieve full independence from Russian fossil fuels before the end of the decade.
Which countries have expressed concern about the proposal?
Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have expressed concern about the oil embargo plan.
Slovakia gets almost all of its imported crude from Russia, mostly through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, and has joined Hungary, which is also heavily dependent on Russian supplies, in seeking an exemption from the embargo.
“We agree with this sanction, but we say that we need a transitional period until we adapt to the situation,” Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulik told a news conference in Bratislava on Wednesday. “What is being discussed today is the length of the transitional period.”
Sulik said a longer transition would give Slovakia time to secure alternative supplies.
Hungary said it could not support the proposed embargo as it would destroy its energy security.
“The Brussels sanctions package would ban Russian oil shipments to Europe, at fairly short notice, in the case of Hungary at the end of next year,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook video, and He added that Hungary cannot support the measures in their current form.
Hungary could only agree to these measures if Russia’s crude oil imports through pipelines were exempted from the sanctions, the minister said.