The European Commission is presenting its sixth package of sanctions against Russia, proposing a phased ban on importing oil from the country, which would take effect over a span of six months, along with banning oil products by the end of this year, EC President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
Phasing out Russian oil products gradually would increase pressure on Russia in response to its attack on Ukraine, but mitigate the worldwide economic fallout, Von der Leyen told the plenary session of the European Parliament discussing the the social and economic consequences of the war.
Meanwhile, the EU will impose restrictions on high-ranking Russian military officers who committed war crimes in Bucha or are responsible for the siege of Mariupol, she said.
The EC will also bar Sberbank and another two Russian banks from the international SWIFT payment network, she said.
Three Russian state-owned broadcasters will be banned from all EU platforms and EU accountants and financial advisors will be barred from working for Russian companies, she said.
Von der Leyen said
Putin wanted to wipe Ukraine off the map, adding that he would not succeed, and he would pay a high price for the brutal aggression in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the EU has started drafting a large-scale reconstruction package to boost investment and reforms in Ukraine after the war, along with plans to provide short-term financial and budgetary aid, she said. The package would “pave Ukraine’s way into the EU,” she added.
Some EU members are jockeying to opt-out of an oil embargo, and there were divisions over the plan. The proposal was only finalised late at night due to the stance of one of the member states.
Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries will meet on Wednesday to give the plan a once-over, and it will need unanimous approval before going into effect.
The ban on oil imports from Russia would start over six to eight months, with Hungary and Slovakia allowed to take a few months longer, EU officials said.
Hungary, which like Slovakia is almost 100% dependent for fuel on Russian crude coming through the Druzbha pipeline, has said it will need several years.
Hungary’s refinery is designed to work with Russian oil and would need to be thoroughly overhauled or replaced to deal with imports from elsewhere – an expensive and lengthy process.
Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi said in his address that while there was wide-spread consensus on using sanctions to put pressure on Russia, the EU had failed to address its dependence on Russian energy, and to strengthen solidarity among member states.
Besides focusing on dependence from Russia as a source of fossil fuel energy, Gyöngyösi proposed that EU member states should also terminate their contracts with Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company.
Hungary should terminate its agreement on the upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant, he said.
Slovakia said the same, they will need a few years and huge developments to change to Russian oil.
As some EU officials said, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic could also seek sanctions opt-outs.
But the experts warned that granting exemptions to one or two highly-dependent states could trigger a domino effect of exemption demands that would undermine the embargo.