Foreign minister in Berlin as EU tries to negotiate Russian energy embargo
Portugal’s foreign minister João Gomes Cravinho has said today that Portugal could “turn off the tap of Russian gas and oil tomorrow”.
The European Union however has obstacles in trying to seal an energy embargo on Russia, albeit an agreement could be possible “in weeks”.
“What is making it difficult is not anything from the political field, but from the technical and economic field [because] there is an asymmetry of the impact of sanctions”, explained Portugal’s head of diplomacy.
“Portugal, for example, would have no difficulty turning off the tap of Russian gas or oil tomorrow, [but] other countries have a dependency, Hungary in particular, and Slovakia and Bulgaria have difficulties.”
Speaking at the end of the informal meeting of foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Mr Cravinho explained “these countries [which are more dependent] are asking for support, for transitional periods, and for the European Commission to invest heavily in the development of other solutions, particularly gas and oil pipelines.
According to the minister, at member state level, “discussions continue, but the objective is shared by all: to cut Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels from Russia“.
When asked about deadlines for the 27 to reach an agreement on this sixth package of sanctions against Russia, presented by the European Commission at the beginning of May, Mr Cravinho estimated that “in the next couple of weeks, in principle, there will be solutions that satisfy everyone”.
“We are all united concerning the fundamental objective, which is to reduce and eliminate dependence on oil and gas,” he said – rejecting the idea that this new package of restrictive measures should be softened.
“Whatever the solution, the package will certainly have a significant impact on the Russian economy and the Russian capacity to feed its war machine,” he said.
This latest package of sanctions foresees a total ban on importing all Russian crude and refined oil by sea and by pipeline to gradually eliminate European energy dependence on Russia, ensuring alternative supply routes and minimising the impact on global markets.
Nevertheless, the package, which focuses on a gradual ban on oil imports by member states by the end of this year, foresees a one-year derogation for Hungary and Slovakia.
Hungary has already come out to reject the proposal for a progressive EU embargo on Russian oil on the terms proposed by the European Commission, claiming it jeopardises the country’s energy security.
The war in Ukraine has exposed the EU’s excessive energy dependence on Russia, which accounts for about 45% of European gas imports. Russia also supplies 25% of the oil and 45% of the coal imported by the EU.