EU must approach Russia sanctions differently: Dutch PM after difficult oil boycott
The EU must change its approach if it starts a new package of punitive measures against Russia, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The union must learn from the extremely difficult agreement on boycotting most Russian oil, which it reached on Monday evening.
The EU leaders agreed to a watered-down version of the embargo proposed by the European Commission nearly four weeks ago. Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic negotiated for exceptions, the technical details of which have yet to be worked out.
According to Rutte, he and some of his colleagues argued for reversing the order from now on. "If we're going to work on a seventh package, we need to debate about the technical details," like arranging alternatives and converting refineries, "before we start talking about what the sanctions package should actually look like."
The Netherlands wants to continue with more sanctions as soon as possible, but "you know it will be even more difficult," Rutte said. It could, for example, contain measures to reduce the import of Russian gas, which is still taboo for many EU countries.
Ruttie does not mean to criticize the Commission, he declared, like his Hungarian colleague Victor Orban did earlier in the day. Orban accused the EU's executive board of "irresponsible behavior" for proposing sanctions without first coordinating it with the Member States. "I think we can learn the lesson that it is crucial to start with the technical side," said Rutte. "Four fingers are pointing at myself and one at the rest of the group."
The EU Member States agreed to ban imports of Russian oil shipped to the EU by sea, affecting about 90 percent of the Russian oil that the EU imports. The Russian oil that flows through the Druzhba pipeline to Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic is excluded from the boycott. These countries, which have no seaports and are therefore dependent on supply by pipeline, would not agree otherwise. Germany and Poland pledged to forego the Russian oil they get by pipeline. The boycott takes effect at the end of the year.
Rutte said he was pleasantly surprised that the deal was reached but called it "a complete labor." Rotterdam and other oil ports and petrochemical centers don't have to worry about unfair competition from Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, Rutte said. The EU leaders agreed that the three countries would not be allowed to export their cheap pipeline oil or whatever they could make from it.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times