N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Late on Monday, May 30, the 27 EU leaders finally agreed a partial oil boycott of Russia. Twenty-six (!) days after the triumphant announcement of the 6th sanctions package by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. That it took so long scratched seriously the image of unity in the European Union.
The compromise that followed after weeks of wrangling means ‘a temporary exemption for oil that comes through pipelines to the EU’, EU Council President Charles Michel said. Because of this, the immediate sanctions will affect only Russian oil being transported into the EU by sea - about three quarters of the oil that Russia exports to the European Union.
As with many EU sanctions against Russia, the oil boycott also shoots the EU itself in the foot. In this case, especially the port of Rotterdam which is by far and away the biggest receiver and transit port of Russian oil. Probably, the Dutch prime-minister has overlooked this in his enthusiasm. Another effect in the EU is the further rise in oil prices, not very good news for consumers.
The EU spent weeks struggling to resolve their differences over the ban on Russian oil imports because Hungary, which imports 65% of its oil from Russia through pipelines, was the main opponent. Its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, was happy with the exemption for Hungary and the fact that this exemption is only ‘temporary’, does not bother him. A time limit to the exemption was not mentioned. Another winner is Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky who was allowed to dial in into the summit. ‘All quarrels in the EU must end internal disputes that only encourage Russia to put more and more pressure on you’, he said.
In his reaction to the boycott President Putin made it known that Russia is already negotiating with new customers.