EU hopeful of Russian oil embargo in May, diplomats say

EU hopeful of Russian oil embargo in May, diplomats say

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference in Strasbourg, France May 9, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/

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BRUSSELS, May 13 (Reuters) – The European Union remains keen to agree a phased embargo on Russian oil this month despite concerns over supplies in Eastern Europe, four diplomats and officials said on Friday, dismissing suggestions of a delay or watered down suggestions.

Dependence on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia poses the main obstacle to an embargo deal the European Commission, the EU executive, signed in early May in response to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine had suggested.

But the diplomats and officials said they were optimistic about a deal, even as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen struggled to persuade Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the most vocal critic of the proposed embargo.

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“There will be an agreement,” said a senior EU diplomat, noting that the proposed transition and investment levels are flexible for countries that depend on Russian oil and need to find other sources of supply.

A second senior diplomat said a deal was possible as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, after technical talks were expected over the weekend.

A third diplomat said there was a possibility of an agreement later in the week. ‚ÄúThat will be decided at the highest political level, between Budapest and Brussels. I’m optimistic,” said the diplomat.

While most EU countries have to fully implement a Russian oil embargo by the end of the year, Hungary has already received an exemption until the end of 2024, as have Slovakia and the Czech Republic until mid-2024. Read more

In addition to the oil ban, other Russians close to President Vladimir Putin are also to be sanctioned in the same package, the sixth since the beginning of the Ukraine war, which Moscow describes as a “military special operation.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to call for more economic sanctions, more weapons and more financial support when he joins his EU counterparts on Monday.

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Reporting by Robin Emmott, Francesco Guarascio, Jan Strupczewski, editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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