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3rd Feb 2023

EU leaders meet to break deadlock over oil ban

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EU leaders are meeting to break a deadlock on Monday (30 May) over their proposed Russian oil embargo, but a deal is unlikely to come from their Brussels summit.

Hungary has been the most vocal opponent of cutting Russian oil imports by the end of the year, as proposed of the European Commission four weeks ago.

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EU officials have been discussing the option of temporarily exempting oil transported via pipelines from the sixth sanctions package, leaving more breathing space for central European countries.

Other member states, however, have complained that it could lead to disadvantages for countries which have been importing Russian oil by sea.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán said, as he arrived at the EU summit, that he wanted further guarantees in case something happens to the pipelines.

"What we are fighting for today is that in case something happens to the Russian oil coming through pipelines, as the Ukrainians and others have said, then we need to have right to get Russian oil from the sea," he told reporters.

On exempting pipelines, Orbán said it was the "right approach".

"It means they don't want to drop the atomic bomb on the Hungarian economy," the PM said.

Orbán blamed the commission's "irresponsible behaviour" for the delay in adopting the sixth package of sanctions.

Orbán said leaders agreed not to include oil and gas in sanctions previously and then "out of the blue we got the idea of embargo on oil, without addressing the issue of Hungary."

While EU officials earlier described the impasse as a technical issue, on Monday they said that they aimed to reach a "political agreement" on the oil embargo.

Officials said the exemption of oil pipelines from the ban would cover more than two-thirds of all Russian oil imports.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said he expected a deal to be reached "later this week or early next week", if not at the actual summit.

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said Russia must be isolated — which includes agreeing on the oil embargo.

"It would be best to have everybody on board, even if somebody has opt out, but it [the compromise] is still better than nothing," she said when arriving at the EU summit.

"It is up to every country's moral compass how to proceed with this," Kallas added.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she does not expect a deal by the end of the summit on Tuesday.

"My expectations are low that it will be solved in the next 48 hours but thereafter."

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauséda called it a "shame" that the EU could not agree on the sixth package sanctions.

"I hope today we will close the last open page and we will success to have the result," he told reporters, adding that the EU will start working on the seventh package.

One likely outcome of the summit is set to be an agreement on a package of EU loans, worth €9bn, for Ukraine to keep its government going and pay wages for around the next two months.

A decision on how to raise the money will be made later.

Hungary wants EU billions for Russia oil-ban deal

Hungary is continuing to block an EU oil embargo on Russia, but there is optimism its objections can soon be overcome — perhaps within a few days to "a week or two", according to some EU foreign ministers.

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