EU Divided on Russian Oil and Gas Sanctions

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
March 22, 2022 Updated: March 22, 2022

The European Union’s foreign ministers remained divided on Monday on whether to sanction Russia’s energy sector over its invasion of Ukraine.

The EU has so far imposed four rounds of sanctions against Russia, targeting banks and oligarchs, while banning Russian aircraft from EU airspace and halting technology exports.

Russian energy imports, on which Europe is highly dependent, are proving far more challenging of a proposal, with Germany and the Netherlands expressing opposition.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday that a near-term Russian energy embargo was unrealistic.

“Too many refineries in the eastern and western part of Europe still completely depend on Russian oil and with gas it’s even worse,” Rutte told reporters after a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Vilnius.

“We have to deleverage that dependency. We need to do it as speedily as possible, but we can’t do this tomorrow,” he added.

Earlier EU discussions led to a broad consensus to phase out the bloc’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels within five years.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters in Brussels on Monday that the EU should work on gradually reducing its reliance on Russian energy but opposed a sudden cut-off.

“The question of an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don’t want [it], but a question of how much we depend on oil,” Baerbock said.

Russia provides over 40 percent of the EU’s gas and coal imports and around a quarter of its oil.

“Germany is importing a lot [of Russian oil], but there are also other member states who can’t stop the oil imports from one day to the other,” she added.

Some EU member states called for a faster phase-out of Russian energy.

“Why should Europe give Putin more time to earn more money from oil and gas? More time to use European ports? More time to use unsanctioned Russian banks in Europe? Time to pull the plug,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement on social media.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on Monday that an EU embargo on Russian energy would have a serious impact on European and global energy markets.

An embargo “will seriously affect the energy balance on the European continent for the worse,” he told reporters, according to Russian state-backed media TASS.

Peskov said the United States, which has said it would ban all Russian energy imports, would fare relatively better than Europe, given its dependency on Russian oil and gas.

“Europeans will have a hard time. It’s probably a decision that will hit everyone,” Peskov said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'