Brussels changes oil embargo plan against Russia over Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic

The European Commission (EC) has proposed changes to its planned embargo on Russian oil to give Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic more time to change their energy supplies.

EU sources told Reuters that he failed to make a breakthrough on Friday (May 6th).

The commission set the embargo this week as part of its package of toughest sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. But Hungary and other EU member states have said they are worried about the impact on their economies.

The amended proposal, which EU ambassadors discussed without an agreement Friday morning, will help the three countries modernize their oil refineries elsewhere and postpone their exit from Russian oil until 2024, they said. sources.

The initial proposal called for an end to imports of Russian crude oil and petroleum products from the EU by the end of this year.

There will also be a three-month transition period before EU ships are banned from transporting Russian oil, instead of the original one month, to address concerns expressed by Greece, Malta, and Cyprus about their shipping companies, one source added.

Diplomats said the talks were difficult, but many expressed confidence that all 27 EU governments could reach an agreement before next week.

One of them clarified that the EC was in talks on Friday afternoon to find a compromise with Budapest and possibly Bratislava. “I don’t think we will see a breakthrough today, more likely over the weekend,” the diplomat said.

According to the initial proposal, most EU countries had to stop buying Russian crude oil six months after the measures were adopted and stop importing refined petroleum products from Russia by the end of the year. Initially, Hungary and Slovakia were given until the end of 2023 to adapt. Under the changes, Hungary and Slovakia will be able to buy Russian oil from pipelines until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic could continue until June 2024 if it does not receive oil through pipelines from southern Europe earlier, sources added.

Bulgaria has also asked for postponements if others receive them but has not been offered discounts on deadlines “because they have no real meaning”, an official said. The other three countries, which have been given more leeway, “have an objective problem,” he added.

One source said the extended deadlines were calculated based on the likely deadlines for construction work to upgrade the pipeline. The official noted that Hungary and Slovakia account for only 6% of Russia’s oil imports from Russia, and the exceptions would not change the impact of the ban on the Russian economy.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell announced on Friday that he would convene an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers next week if no agreement is reached over the weekend.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orb├ín said earlier today that Hungary would need five years and huge investments in its refineries and pipelines to transform its current system, which receives about 65% of its oil from Russia. A diplomat familiar with the talks between EU ambassadors to Brussels has dismissed Orban’s comments as “for the most part a roar”, instead of describing a constructive atmosphere in the talks.

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