Europe is talking about joining the Russian oil embargo

EU leaders will discuss whether to dump by far the largest supplier of oil to the region, as they have already committed to reducing Russian natural gas consumption by 66% this year. They will be joined on Thursday by US President Joe Biden, who is visiting Europe for EU, NATO and G7 summits.

The European Union’s top diplomat said the bloc was ready to impose more sanctions on Russia, but that no decision was made at Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers on whether to target energy specifically.

“Today was not a day to make decisions in that area, so no decision was made, but this and other possible measures were the subject of analysis by ministers,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters. The issue of Russian energy imports was raised by various member states, and “there was an interesting exchange of views, information on this,” he added.

Russia is the world’s second largest exporter of oil, after Saudi Arabia, and despite the cooling effect of unprecedented Western economic sanctions, and an embargo announced by the United States and Britain, continue to earn hundreds of millions of dollars a day on energy exports.

“I think it is inevitable to start talking about the energy sector. And we can certainly talk about oil because it is the biggest revenue for the Russian budget,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said when he arrived in Brussels for Monday’s negotiations. .

Other EU states support the idea of ​​hitting Russia’s most valuable asset with sanctions.

“Looking at the scale of the devastation in Ukraine right now, it is very difficult – in my opinion – to argue that we should not move into the energy sector, especially oil and coal, in terms of disrupting normal trade with it. space, ”said Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney.

The European Union is currently dependent on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas. Russia also supplies about 27% of oil imports and 46% of coal imports.

What will Germany do?

Earlier this month, EU leaders said the bloc could not yet join the US in banning Russian oil because of the impact it would have on households and industries already struggling with record high prices. Instead, they said they would work toward a 2027 deadline to end the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy.

There is also a risk that Russia may reciprocate by restricting exports of natural gas. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said this month that Moscow could cut off gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in retaliation to Berlin blocks the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

Yet political opinion may intensify in Europe as Russia escalates its attacks on Ukraine’s cities, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing millions to flee their homes.

Much will come down to countries like Germany, Russia’s largest energy customer in Europe, as well as others that buy much of its gas, such as Hungary and Italy.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the country was “working at full speed” to end its dependence on Russia, but like some other EU countries, it could not stop buying Russian oil from one day to the next.

“If we could, we would do it automatically,” she said.

Even without an EU embargo – and any potential Russian contra – the world is facing its biggest energy supply shock in decades, according to the International Energy Agency. It said last week that Russia could be forced to limit crude oil production by 30% from next month due to declining demand.

Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have already banned imports of Russian oil, affecting about 13% of Russia’s exports. And moves by major oil companies and global banks to stop trading with Moscow after the invasion are forcing Russia to offer its crude oil at a huge discount.

The Paris-based IEA, which monitors the energy supply to the world’s leading developed economies, said Russian production could fall by 3 million barrels a day.

“The consequences of a potential loss of Russian oil exports to global markets cannot be underestimated,” the IEA said in its monthly report.

– Arnaud Siad and Alex Hardie contributed to this article.

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