September 24, 2023

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Diplomats say the EU hopes to reach a Russian oil embargo deal in May

Diplomats say the EU hopes to reach a Russian oil embargo deal in May

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

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union still aimed to agree a phased embargo on Russian oil this month despite concerns about supplies in eastern Europe, four diplomats and officials said on Friday, rejecting suggestions to delay or ease proposals.

Reliance on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia is the biggest obstacle to the embargo deal proposed by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, in early May in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

However, diplomats and officials said they are optimistic about the deal, even as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen struggles to persuade Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the fiercest critic of the proposed ban.

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“There will be a deal,” a senior EU diplomat said, noting that there is flexibility in the proposed transition and investment levels for countries dependent on Russian oil that will need to find other sources of supply.

A second senior diplomat said an agreement was possible on Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, after technical talks expected at the end of the week.

A third diplomat said there was a chance of a deal later this week. “This will be decided at the highest political level between Budapest and Brussels. I am optimistic,” the diplomat said.

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While most EU countries will 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 embargo, more Russians close to President Vladimir Putin are expected to be punished in the same package, the sixth since the start of the Ukraine war, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is expected to call for more economic sanctions, more weapons and more financial support when he joins his European Union counterparts on Monday.

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(Reporting: Robin Emmott, Francesco Guaracchio, Jan Stropchevsky, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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