Saturday

13th Apr 2024

EU mulls coal embargo on Russia, but still spares oil and gas

  • A ban on coal imports will be discussed as part of the fifth package of sanctions on Russian over its invasion of Ukraine (Photo: Wikipedia)
Listen to article

EU ambassadors will discuss a new package of sanctions on Wednesday (6 April), including a ban on coal imports worth an estimated €4bn per year.

"This will cut another important revenue source for Russia," EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs on Tuesday during the plenary session in Strasbourg.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The proposal also includes a ban on four key Russian banks, including the country's second-largest (VTB) and restrictions on Russian vessels from accessing EU ports.

"We are working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports, and we are reflecting on some of the ideas presented by the member states, such as taxes or specific payment channels such as an escrow account," von der Leyen said, referring to a previous proposal presented by Estonia.

Until now, the EU has issued four packages of unprecedented sanctions on Russian banks and companies over its invasion of Ukraine.

But restrictive measures have found a way to circumvent Moscow's two main sources of income internationally: oil and gas exports. And these purchases are likely to carry on regardless, handing the Kremlin cash to continue its war of aggression in Ukraine.

The EU has been unable to agree on sanctions targeting energy sectors given the high dependence of some member states on Russian fossil fuels.

But Europe is less vulnerable to a reduction in coal imports than a cut in oil or gas supplies — since solid fossil fuels such as coal account for less than 10 percent of the EU energy mix.

EU countries that have shown reluctance to impose energy sanctions such as Germany seem ready to back the coal embargo — although it is still unclear whether recently re-elected Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán will support such move.

Russian imports accounted for about 19 percent of the EU's coal use in 2020. By comparison, the 27-bloc imported over 40 percent of its gas and nearly 37 percent of its oil from Russia.

Nevertheless, it is important to differentiate between metallurgical and thermal coal trades.

The Russian share of EU imports of the type of coal used to generate electricity — thermal coal — is almost 70 percent, while the dependence on Russian metallurgical coal used in iron and steel production is lower, according to an analysis of the Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel.

And countries like Germany and Poland are highly dependent on Russian coal imports.

Poland, for example, imports approximately 9.5 million tonnes of coal annually, mainly from Russia.

"To compensate for these shortages, Poland will have to import coal from other sources in order to prevent interruptions in the supply of energy," a Polish diplomat told EUobserver.

Experts said the coal embargo proposal responds to the gradual approach the EU has been defending in the sanctions regime against Russia since the beginning of the war.

"EU leaders want to have another economic weapon in hand should Russia escalate even further," Nick Sitter, a professor at the Central European University and BI Norwegian Business School, told EUobserver.

The EU, said Sitter, needs more time to prepare for Russian gas cuts. But any sanctions really aiming to damage the Russian economy must clearly include a gas embargo, he added.

It's not easy being green — and cutting Russian gas

There are growing concerns that the EU's push for alternative gas sources will simply lead to burning the most-polluting sources as Russian gas gets phased out. But the EU climate chief says there should be no taboos.

Opinion

Eastern Europe: Between hammer and anvil

For peace in Europe in the short term, Ukraine must win the war. But for peace in the long term, Germany must be contained and Russia must break apart.

MEPs seek full embargo on Russian energy

MEPs called for an immediate and "full" embargo on Russian oil, coal, nuclear fuel, and gas in response to atrocities in Ukraine. But a coal ban is the only likely move for now.

Interview

EU should use 'all means' to end war in Gaza: Belgian minister

The EU should use "all means" possible to end the violence in Gaza, including sanctions, a peace conference, and a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Belgian development cooperation minister Caroline Gennez told EUobserver.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us