European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Russia opened a new front in its war in Ukraine on Wednesday, cutting two European Union nations that staunchly back Kyiv off from its gas, a dramatic escalation in the conflict that is increasingly becoming a wider battle with the West. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen formally proposed a ban on all imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022 over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, in a Wednesday speech to the European Parliament. 

“When [European] leaders met in Versailles, they agreed to phase out our dependency on Russian fossil fuels,” von der Leyen said, citing earlier moves to divest from Russian coal imports. “Let’s be clear: It will not be easy, because some member-states are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to do it, so today we will propose to ban all Russian oil from Europe.” 

The president went on to say the ban would apply to all imports, “sea-borne and pipeline, crude and refined.” 

Von der Leyen said the phaseout would occur in an “orderly fashion” that reduced disruption to the market and bought time to explore alternatives. The EU will end crude imports in the next six months and refined imports by the end of 2022, she added. 

“Thus, we maximize the pressure on Russia, while at the same time, we minimize the collateral damage to us and to our partners around the globe, because to help Ukraine, we have to make sure that our economy remains strong,” she said. 

EU member states buy about a quarter of the gas they use from Russia. Data from the International Energy Agency indicates the EU bought about 2.3 million barrels of Russian oil a day, or about half of all exports, in 2021. While the EU has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia since the country invaded Ukraine, it has not previously followed the U.S. and the U.K. in outright bans on oil imports. 

The proposed ban would still require a vote by all EU member states. While von der Leyen did not identify the members concerned about their reliance on Russian energy, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs tweeted Wednesday morning: “We do not see any plans or guarantees on how a transition could be managed based on the current proposals, and how HU’s energy security would be guaranteed.”  

Hungary has been the 12th biggest importer of Russian energy since the beginning of the invasion, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The only non-EU nations in the top 10 are China, South Korea and Turkey. 

Western nations, and European nations in particular, have walked a tightrope in seeking to sanction and pressure Moscow due to its outsized role in the energy market. The EU and U.S. were sharply criticized last year for lifting sanctions to allow the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have carried natural gas from Russia to Germany. However, German officials announced the completed pipeline would not be brought online after the invasion of Ukraine.  

Tags EU European Commission European Union European Union Russia Russian invasion of Ukraine russian oil embargo Ukraine Ursula von der Leyen

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