EU modifies Russia’s oil embargo in a bid to win over reluctant nations – Sources

  • The European Union is offering more time in line with the representatives of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic
  • The oil tanker embargo was postponed in an attempt to appease Greece
  • Complicated talks, but diplomats expect compromise

Brussels, May 6 (Reuters) – The European Union (EU) has proposed changes to a planned embargo on Russian oil to give Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to change their energy supplies, EU sources said.

The EU executive imposed the sanctions this week as part of its tougher-still sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. But Hungary and other EU member states have expressed concern about the impact on their own economies. read more

Sources said the modified proposal – which EU ambassadors discussed without reaching an agreement on Friday morning – would help all three countries upgrade their refineries to process oil from elsewhere and delay Russian oil exits by 2024.

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The initial plan called for a halt to EU imports of Russian crude and oil products by the end of this year.

One source added that there would be a three-month change before Greece, Malta and Cyprus could ban EU shipping services from carrying Russian oil to address concerns raised by their shipping companies.

Diplomats said the talks were complicated, but many expressed hope that the 27 EU governments could agree before next week.

One said the commission was in talks Friday afternoon to reach a compromise with Budapest and Bratislava.

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“I do not think we will see a turning point today, it will be more over the weekend,” the ambassador said.

Under the original proposal, most EU countries would have to stop buying Russian crude oil after six months and stop importing refined oil products from Russia by the end of this year. The transition to Hungary and Slovakia was initially offered until the end of 2023. read more

Under the changes, Hungary and Slovakia could buy Russian oil from pipelines until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic could continue until June 2024, unless oil is piped from southern Europe, sources said.

Bulgaria also asked for exceptions if others had received them, but no concessions were made because the deadline was “no real point,” an official said. The official added that “there is an objective problem” for the other three countries which were given more time.

One source calculated the extended deadline based on the construction time for the pipeline upgrade. The official said that Hungary and Slovakia accounted for only 6% of EU oil imports from Russia, and that the exceptions would not change the impact of the embargo on the Russian economy.

If no agreement is reached by the end of the week, EU top diplomat Joseph Borel said on Friday that he would call an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers next week. read more

Earlier on Friday, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it would take five years and large investments to transform its current system in refineries and pipelines, which receive 65% of its oil from Russia. read more

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An envoy familiar with the talks between EU ambassadors in Brussels dismissed Orban’s comments as “mostly confusing” and described a constructive context in the talks instead.

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Reporting by Francesco Curassio @fraguarascio, Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsap Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Potter

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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