EU can agree Russia oil embargo, or seek alternative, Germany says

REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: German Economic and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck speaks during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum 2022 (WEF) in the Alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland, May 23, 2022.

BERLIN (Reuters) – The European Union can still strike a deal on a Russian oil embargo in the coming days or look to “other instruments” if no agreement is reached, Germany’s economy minister Robert Habeck said at Group of Seven talks in Berlin on Thursday.

The EU executive European Commission proposed the embargo as the harshest sanction yet on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. But talks have failed to produce a breakthrough so far, with Hungary, Moscow’s closest ally in the EU, vetoing the move.

Habeck said all EU countries had to reduce their oil dependency.

“That includes Hungary. If you take that as the basis of discussion, then an agreement should be possible. If you include other topics into the question of an oil embargo it will be very, very difficult,” he said.

“I know that intensive discussions are ongoing. In five days we have the next EU Council, I assume that that is the corridor in which either an agreement is reached or one will have to consider other instruments.”

He did not specify what those other instruments could be.

Habeck was speaking as G7 energy, climate and environment ministers were set to wrangle over how to keep climate change goals on track at talks overshadowed by spiraling energy costs and fuel supply problems sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Brussels has already proposed giving Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to impose an embargo, compared with other EU states.

The EU also offered up to 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) for oil infrastructure to help those countries pivot to non-Russian supplies.

Hungary, however, said about 750 million euros would be needed in short-term investments to withstand an embargo, while a total modernisation of its energy system would cost billions.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told the EU not to attempt to agree the oil embargo when EU country leaders meet next week at a summit in Brussels, in a letter seen by Reuters.

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