The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced this Wednesday the EU’s first major energy coup against Vladimir Putin’s regime: “Today we will propose to ban all Russian oil in Europe”, she started in an intervention in the European Parliament; immediately afterwards, her words were interrupted by applause from the MEPs. The plan of the Community Executive will suppose a “progressive” embargo that implies the cut of crude oil supplies in six months and that of refined products by the end of the year.
Von der Leyen has also advanced more details of the EU’s sixth retaliation package, the content of which is not yet public. Brussels intends to expel Sberbank, the largest financial institution in Russia, with 37% of the market, and two other banks from the Swift system of international transactions.
The measures will also include in the EU blacklist, which already exceeds a thousand names, military commanders responsible for the Bucha massacres and the siege of Mariupol. And they seek to ban the broadcast in the EU of three large publicly owned Russian television channels, “spokespersons that aggressively amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda”, Von der Leyen has defined them.
The Commission’s proposal now has to be debated and approved by the Council (the body that represents the twenty-seven EU governments), where an intense discussion is expected to iron out fringes, reluctance and rough edges of various capitals that have demanded more time to unplug from Russian oil, like Hungary and Slovakia.
Von der Leyen’s intervention started early this Wednesday, just as the ambassadors of the Twenty-seven meet in Brussels to begin the final negotiation of the package, which could even be blocked by a community partner, since its approval requires unanimity . But community sources believe that the pressure is high to achieve the agreement and highlight the “constructive” attitude of Hungary.
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A central part of the discussions will be to grant a longer term to the progressive closure of Russian oil pipelines for some member states: “Allowing some countries to continue using fuel from Moscow beyond 2022 is not ruled out,” says a diplomatic source.
“It will not be easy, because some member states are heavily dependent on Russian oil. But we just have to do it,” continued Von der Leyen. The president of the Community Executive has explained that her proposal implies “a total ban on the importation of all Russian oil, maritime and by pipeline, crude and refined.” Russian crude imports account for around 25% of the supply to the EU from abroad and its bill amounts to 48,000 million euros. If petroleum products are added to this, the figure reaches almost 75,000 million, according to Eurostat.
The head of the Community Executive has acknowledged that this energy short-circuit must be carried out “in an orderly manner” to ensure alternative supplies and minimize the impact on global markets, trying to avoid an inflationary spiral that takes the economies ahead. “We maximized the pressure on Russia, and at the same time the collateral damage for ourselves and our partners around the world,” she said.
“Putin must pay for his brutal aggression,” Von der Leyen said in a speech delivered in sometimes emotional overtones in English. “We want Ukraine to win this war,” he also stressed. And he has concluded his words with a “Slava Ukraine! [gloria a Ucrania] And long live Europe!”