Talks to impose a sweeping ban on Russian oil imports to the European Union have appeared to falter, with the bloc still discussing carve-outs that could effectively exempt countries like Hungary, multiple news outlets reported Monday, as the EU seeks to punish Russia for invading Ukraine while limiting economic consequences at home.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reportedly said she has “low” expectations that the EU will agree on a Russian oil embargo by the end of a summit of EU leaders that kicked off in Brussels on Monday, but an agreement could emerge later.
Ahead of the two-day summit, envoys from EU countries discussed a compromise that would ban Russian oil from being transported to Europe via ship but temporarily allow oil to keep flowing through pipelines, Reuters and Politico reported.
This compromise could help assuagelandlocked European countries like Hungary, which is dependent on Russia for most of its oiland led by President Viktor Orban—a populist with closer ties to Russia than virtually any other EU leader.
But when Orban arrived at the Brussels summit, he indicated to reporters that he still hadn’t struck a deal, partly because he wants flexibility to seek out Russian oil if his country’s pipeline-based imports are disrupted for some reason.
Most Russian oil arrives in the EU by ship, so a bloc-wide embargo that only applies to maritime imports would still likely cut off most Russian petroleum shipments. However, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic—three landlocked countries—are more reliant on oil transported over land via the Druzhba pipeline system.
Germany—which is the EU’s largest economy—is aiming to cut itself off from Russian oil later this year, and Bloomberg reported this month German officials plan to follow through with the move regardless of whether the rest of Europe follows. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Germany has rapidly cut back imports of oil and natural gas via Russian pipelines, despite previously relying heavily on Russia for its energy.
In the months following the Ukraine invasion, the EU’s 27 members have sanctioned Russian financial institutions, elites and key industries. Earlier this month, von der Leyen proposed banning all Russian oil from the EU within six months, a broad embargo that followed an EU plan to block Russian coal imports. Restricting oil exports to the EU would deprive Russia of a key source of revenue, but it would require many European countries that have historically relied on Russian oil to quickly seek out alternative energy sources.