FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
March 21, 2022
By Sabine Siebold and Ingrid Melander
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union should deepen sanctions on Russia to target its lucrative energy sector, foreign ministers of Lithuania and Ireland said on Monday at the start of a diplomatic flurry to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
The European Union (EU) and its allies have already imposed a series of measures against Russia, including freezing its central bank’s assets.
Russia’s siege and bombing of the port of Mariupol, which EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described as a “massive war crime”, increases the pressure to act.
But targeting Russian oil, as the United States and Britain have done, is a divisive decision for the 27-nation EU, which depends on Russia for 40% of its gas. Some argued on Monday that the EU would no longer be able to avoid such a step.
“Given the current level of destruction in Ukraine, it is very difficult to argue that we should not interfere in the energy sector, particularly oil and coal,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told a meeting of peers.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis agreed: “It is inevitable that we will talk about the energy sector and we can definitely talk about oil because it represents the largest revenue for Russia’s budget.”
However, diplomats warned that energy is the most complex sector to sanction, as each EU country has its own red lines. “Sanctions are exponential,” said one diplomat. “The further you get, the more difficult it becomes to adopt.”
To illustrate the complexity, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the EU is still dependent on Russian oil and gas and cannot decouple tomorrow.
Diplomats told Reuters that the Baltic countries, including Lithuania, wanted an oil embargo, while Germany and Italy, which depend on Russian gas, are wary of moving too quickly due to already high energy prices.
Sanctions on coal are a red line for countries like Germany, Poland and Denmark, the diplomats said. For others, like the Netherlands, oil is untouchable.
Diplomats have also said that a Russian chemical weapons attack in Ukraine or a heavy bombardment of the capital Kyiv could trigger an energy embargo.
Moscow itself has warned that such sanctions could prompt it to shut down a gas pipeline to Europe – another potential deterrent.
The meeting of foreign ministers was the start of a busy week of talks in Brussels. No decision on possible energy sanctions was expected on Monday.
US President Joe Biden arrives Wednesday for talks with the 30 members of the transatlantic alliance NATO, the EU and a Group of Seven (G7) format including Japan to escalate the West’s response to Moscow.
The Kremlin has so far remained reluctant to change course in Ukraine amid EU sanctions, including on 685 Russians and Belarusians, and on Russian finance and trade.
A fifth round of sanctions will put more names on the EU blacklists. France says there should be no “taboos” about sanctions if the situation worsens, French officials said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, calling it a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid it of dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West say these are baseless pretexts for aggression.
Defense ministers will also discuss a new military strategy “strategic compass” to adapt the EU to changing geopolitical realities. The document has been tweaked to strengthen parts related to Russia, an EU official said.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Robin Emmott, Ingrid Melander, Bart Meijer, John Irish Writing by Robin Emmott and Ingrid Melander, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Andrew Cawthorne)
https://www.oann.com/eu-to-mull-russian-oil-embargo-with-biden-set-to-join-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-to-mull-russian-oil-embargo-with-biden-set-to-join-talks Some are urging the divided EU to hit Russia with oil sanctions