EU changes oil sanctions plan against Russia to win over reluctant states

Specialists examine equipment during a daily check-up detour at the Achinsk refinery, which was acquired by Rosneft in 2007 and currently processes West Siberian crude delivered through the Transneft pipeline system, in the region in Krasnoyarsk, Russia July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

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  • EU gives Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic more time to adjust
  • Oil transport ban postponed to convince Greece
  • Complex talks, but diplomats hope for a compromise

BRUSSELS, May 6 (Reuters) – The European Commission has proposed changing its planned Russian oil embargo to give Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic more time to redirect their energy supplies, officials said. European sources, but without achieving a breakthrough on Friday.

The EU executive this week announced the embargo in its toughest set of sanctions yet against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. But Hungary and other EU member states have said they are worried about the impact on their own economies. Read more

The amended proposal – which EU envoys discussed on Friday morning without reaching an agreement – ​​would help the three countries upgrade their refineries to process oil from elsewhere and delay their exit from Russian oil until 2024, the sources said. .

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The initial proposal called for an end to European imports of Russian crude oil and petroleum products by the end of this year.

There would also be a three-month transition before banning EU shipping services from carrying Russian oil, instead of the initial month – to address concerns raised by Greece, Malta and Cyprus about their shipping companies, said added one of the sources.

Diplomats said the talks were complex, but many said they were confident the 27 EU governments could agree before next week.

One said the Commission was in talks on Friday afternoon to find a compromise with Budapest and possibly Bratislava.

“I don’t think we’ll see a breakthrough today, more likely this weekend,” the diplomat said.

According to the initial proposal, most EU countries were to stop buying Russian crude oil six months after the measures were adopted and to stop imports of refined petroleum products from Russia by the end of the year. year. Hungary and Slovakia initially had until the end of 2023 to adapt. Read more

According to 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, if it does not obtain oil via a pipeline. from southern Europe earlier, the sources said.

Bulgaria had also asked for waivers, if others got them, but was not offered any concessions on deadlines, “because they don’t really matter”, an official said. The other three countries that have been given more leeway “have an objective problem”, the official added.

One of the sources said the extended deadlines were calculated on likely construction times for pipeline upgrades. The official said Hungary and Slovakia only account for 6% of EU oil imports from Russia, and the exemptions would not change the impact of the ban on the Russian economy.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said on Friday he would call an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers next week if no deal was reached by the weekend. Read more

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said earlier on Friday that Hungary would need five years and huge investments in its refineries and pipelines to transform its current system, which gets around 65% of its oil from Russia. Read more

A diplomat familiar with the talks between EU envoys in Brussels called Orban’s comments “mostly bluster”, instead describing a constructive atmosphere in the negotiations.

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Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio, Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark POtter

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