September 26, 2022

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EU adjusts Russian oil sanctions plan in bid to win support from reluctant countries

EU adjusts Russian oil sanctions plan in bid to win support from reluctant countries

Models of oil drums are seen in front of the banner displayed “Stand,” the colors of the European Union and Russia flags in this illustration taken on March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Rovich

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  • The EU is giving Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to adapt
  • Postponing the oil embargo in an attempt to persuade Greece
  • Complicated talks but diplomats hope for compromise

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has proposed changes to a planned Russian oil embargo to give Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to prepare for the transition in their energy supplies, three EU sources said on Friday.

The European Commission outlined the ban this week as part of a package of tougher sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. But Hungary and other member states said they were concerned about the impact on their economies. Read more

The sources said the revised proposal – which EU envoys discussed Friday morning without reaching an agreement – would give the three countries help in modernizing their oil infrastructure.

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One of the sources added that there would also be a three-month transition period before EU shipping services were banned from transporting Russian oil, instead of the first month – to address concerns raised by Greece, Malta and Cyprus about their shipping companies.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that further discussions are expected later on Friday and possibly the end of the week.

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Diplomats said the talks were complex, but many expressed confidence that a compromise could be found among all 27 EU governments before next week.

Under the original proposal, most EU countries would have to stop buying Russian crude oil six months after adopting the measures, and halt imports of refined oil products from Russia by the end of the year. Hungary and Slovakia were initially given until the end of 2023 to adjust. Read more

The sources said that under the changes, Hungary and Slovakia will be able to buy Russian oil from pipelines until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic may last until June 2024, if it does not get oil via a pipeline from southern Europe earlier.

One of the officials said Bulgaria had also requested waivers, if others obtained them, but had not been offered concessions on the deadlines, “because they had no real point of view”. The official added that the other three countries that gained more freedom “have an objective problem.”

One of the sources said the extended deadlines were calculated based on potential construction times for the pipeline upgrade. The official said Hungary and Slovakia account for only 6% of the EU’s oil imports from Russia, and that the waivers would not change the impact of the embargo on the Russian economy.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s top diplomat, said on Friday that he would call an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers next week if no deal was reached by the end of the week. Read more

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier on Friday that Hungary would need five years and massive investments in its refineries and pipelines to transform its current system that gets about 65% of its oil from Russia. Read more

A diplomat familiar with the talks between EU envoys in Brussels dismissed Orban’s comments as “mostly boisterous,” describing instead the constructive atmosphere in the negotiations.

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(Reporting by Francesco Guaraccio fraguarascio and Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Heavens

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