Negotiations between EU countries over plans for a new Russia sanctions package are intensifying, and diplomats are preparing for talks to stretch well into Friday night — or even beyond.
The EU executive is trying to get Hungary and Slovakia to support their proposal for a total ban on Russian oil in order to put maximum economic pressure on Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
European diplomats had hoped the bloc’s sixth package of sanctions would be approved on Friday if EU ambassadors did gather for their final round of formal talks.
But the scramble How long countries will wean themselves off Russian oil could drag on into the weekend, according to several EU diplomats.
“I reckon it will be quite a long session tomorrow,” a diplomat said on Thursday. “I can’t rule out going into the weekend.”
“We’re going to have a long night on Friday,” agreed another EU diplomat.
As an expected ad hoc meeting of EU ambassadors did not take place on Thursday, negotiations between the European Commission and EU countries are instead taking place over phone lines and in one-to-one meetings.
Even though reaching a consensus is hard work, Brussels diplomats are still optimistic that the sanctions package will cross the finish line in the coming days.
“You can never be 100% sure, but it’s more likely than not,” said one of the diplomats. Another said he expected a political deal on Friday night and a formal adoption of the package on Saturday.
But whether this schedule is realistic will depend primarily on two players: Hungary and Slovakia.
The commission sent out its sanctions proposals late Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, she began a first high-level political discussion with the 27 EU countries – and both Slovakia and Hungary were quick to reject the plans, arguing they needed more time to phase out Russian oil than planned.
The plans call for a phase-out of crude oil within six months and refined fuels by the end of the year. Under the current draft, Hungary and Slovakia have an additional year before the embargo comes into effect to accommodate their dependence on Russian oil.
The two countries are pushing against that timeframe, saying they need longer – and it looks like they could succeed. According to another EU diplomat, Hungary and Slovakia could get another year of preparation time.
But other countries could also benefit from the flexibility, the EU diplomat said, as the Czech Republic and Bulgaria line up for a potentially longer phase-out.
That could be a hard pill for other countries, who argue that the proposed ban in its current form is already starting too late.
https://www.politico.eu/article/von-der-leyens-team-hits-phones-in-scramble-to-find-oil-sanctions-compromise/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Von der Leyen's team scrambles to find compromise on Russian oil ban - POLITICO