By Alexander Miller, consultant in international politics, for Eurasia Business News – May 7, 2022

The Deputy Chairman of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic said that in the coming days, the countries of the European Union will agree on an embargo on Russian oil supplies. The French energy minister Barbara Pompili said on May 5 that the EU would reach an agreement on an embargo on Russian oil supplies by the end of this week.

Maros Sefcovic, Deputy Chairman of the European Commission, told journalists of the Italian newspaper La Stampa :

Yes, I am sure. Even in the case of previous sanctions, there were huge difficulties, and if we need one or two more days to find unity, let’s give them. So that each state feels comfortable and supports this package. I am sure that today or tomorrow, with the support of the European commission, the ambassadors will be able to find mutual understanding.”

According to the EU official, some European countries depend on Russian energy resources more than others : “Moreover, the chemical and petrochemical industry in Central and Eastern Europe has for many years been built on the supply of Russian crude oil. Therefore, special technologies and methods of processing, investments are needed.”

According to his estimates, about 160 million euros and a margin of time are needed to adapt oil refineries. “We are looking for a solution so that everyone agrees. Sanctions should harm Russia more than us,” said Maros Sefcovic.

However, such an amount of 160 million euros may not be enough to adapt European oil refineries to new oil supplies. Here Maros Sefcovic may voluntarily lower the financial stakes, to convince European state representatives to adopt the Russian oil ban. The first winner of such a ban will be the United States, which is an oil exporter.

Maros Sefcovic is a Slovak diplomat and politician serving as Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations since 2019, and previously from 2010 to 2014. He has been member of the European Commission since 2009. When he has served as a Slovak diplomat, Maros Sefcovic has worked in Zimbabwe, Canada, and as Slovak ambassador to Israel (1999–2002). He was also Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the European Union (2004–2009).

Maros Sefcovic has not always been tough on Russia. Indeed, in March 2019, he said to Slovak journalists that he does not “consider Russia as a threat, but as a strategic challenge.” Maros Sefcovic then added that he would welcome more room for constructive dialogue with Moscow, whether from the EU or Slovakia. He also expressed the view that “ordinary people are paying the most for sanctions against Russia.”

On May 6, Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, announced the first global energy crisis. He recalled that Russia is the world’s largest supplier of oil and gas, so the sanctions against it, as well as the political decisions of the Kremlin, have a great impact on the world’s energy :

“We are seeing today an energy crisis, along with a humanitarian crisis and a climate crisis. They are all interlinked. I believe we are in fact in the first global energy crisis, and this is affecting the oil markets, gas markets, electricity markets and coal markets. The world has never seen such an energy crisis. It’s a new energy world with new realities – we are at a turning point for global energy.”

In early March, the US banned the import of Russian oil and gas. The UK and Canada have announced similar restrictive measures. On May 4, the head of the European Commission, the German politician Ursula von der Leyen, announced proposals for a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in response to the military operation in Ukraine. One of the key points in this next round is the gradual refusal of the EU from the supply of Russian oil.

In 2021, Russia supplied 25% to 30% of the crude oil and 15% of the petroleum products purchased by Europeans. “The bill for Russian oil imports was four times larger than that of gas, 80 billion dollars against 20 billion,” recalled the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, on May 4.

The freeze on Russian oil imports worries European citizens and businesses, who will suffer any price increases resulting from the reduction in the supply of oil on the market. Brussels’ decision will fuel high inflation in Europe. The euro zone’s annual inflation rate was estimated at 7.5% in April 2022, compared to 7.4% in March and 5.9% in February.

Russia launched a military operation in the morning of February 24, with the official goal to “demilitarize Ukraine”, remove the Ukrainian government and protect the rights of Russians living in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine, a region hit by the war since 2014. In a televised address to Russian citizens, President Vladimir Putin stated that circumstances “require decisive and immediate action from us, the people’s republics of Donbass  have asked for help.” 

The Kremlin continues voicing that Moscow’s plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories. The Russian goals would be “demilitarization and denazification” of the country. Moscow also wants Ukraine to return to its neutral status, which was enshrined in the Ukrainian Constitution until 2014 and to offer guarantee of not holding on its territory nuclear weapons.

Read also : How will Russia respond to Western sanctions ?

Ukraine and its Western partners sees the Russian military operation as an invasion and imposed strong strong sanctions against Russian state officials, banks, companies and oligarchs, to put pressure on the Russian government and lead it to a ceasefire and a withdrawal from Ukraine.

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