EU leaders agree on watered down Russian oil ban after weeks of disputes from Hungary

Viktor Orban slams 'irresponsible' EU Commission over oil embargo

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The embargo will only target imports from sea but exclude pipeline supplies. Charles Michel, president of the European Council announced the measures on Monday just before midnight following the first day of an extraordinary summit in Brussels.

He said: “This is a remarkable achievement. We need political leadership in these extraordinary times.

“More than ever it’s important to show we’re able to be strong and tough to defend our values.”

The embargo is part of the sixth round of EU sanctions aimed at Moscow in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

The new measures included the expulsion of Sberbank Russia’s largest bank from the SWIFT system along with the blacklisting of individuals allegedly involved in war crimes in Ukraine.

The original oil ban was announced by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen a month ago.

It targeted seaborne and pipeline imports with a complete phase out planned by the end of the year.

However, soon afterwards a number of member states including Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria raised objections asking for exceptions in order to have more time to cushion the impact and adapt their refineries.

EU sanctions need the unanimous vote of all 27 member states. 

Following several rounds of difficult negotiations a compromise was reached to add an exemption to imports coming through pipelines.

Around two thirds of Russian oil imported to the EU comes via ports with the rest coming from the Druzhba pipeline that links to refineries in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Refineries such as these have grown used to the reliable and fairly cheap deliveries of Russian oil.

Ms Von der Leyen said that by the end of the year about 90 percent of Russian oil will have been targeted. 

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This is based upon commitments made by Poland and Germany who have vowed to stop imports from the northern branch of Druzhba.

Ms Von der Leyen added that EU leaders have agreed to consider “one way or the other” over the remaining 10 percent of supplies.

She said: “We still have work to do. It’s a big step forward from what we did today.”

The pipeline exemption will be seen as a coup for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who was a staunch opponent of a total embargo.

However, some Brussels insiders were sceptical of Orban who is seen as the most pro-Putin leader in the bloc.

A senior diplomat told Euronews: “[Hungary] plays Moscow’s game. They didn’t convince us their objections are technical in substance.”

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