Partial oil embargo against Russia: a sensible move?

After more than a month of debate over imposing an oil embargo against Russia, the EU has reached a compromise: imports via sea routes will be blocked, while landlocked countries Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will be able to continue receiving oil via the Druzhba pipeline. Hungary in particular fiercely opposed the embargo. Europe's press examines what this middle path can achieve.

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Irish Independent (IE) /

EU has played its trump card

This was a sensible and probably final compromise, says the Irish Independent:

“A partial embargo is better than no embargo at all. Anything which restricts funds to Putin's war machine is to be welcomed and the ban is significant coming from a bloc which is heavily dependent on Russian energy. Member states are split between those desperate to decouple from Kremlin-controlled energy, landlocked nations hopelessly hooked on it, and others somewhere in between. Heads of state and government still found a way to square that circle and hit Moscow, which was by no means certain before the summit. But the EU now looks to have played its trump card.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

The oil weapon is effective

Sooner or later the newly adopted sanctions will hit Russia hard, Lidové noviny is convinced:

“At first Moscow will still be able to earn money with oil. Gradually, however, oil from other producers will come onto the market and the price will fall. Russia has only limited possibilities for redirecting its exports. ... So in the longer term it will find it more difficult to win the war against Western-backed Ukraine. The complaints of former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the embargo will hurt Russian budget revenues show that Moscow really does fear sanctions on oil. Europe must persevere, even if this is neither easy nor cheap.” (DE) /

No embargo better than this half-hearted effort is not happy with the result:

“Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will benefit while others have to search, some more, some less, for replacements - presumably much to the delight of Vladimir Putin, who is driving a deep wedge into the EU here, and who will be delighted with the resulting economic imbalances. ... Quarrels and trouble are inevitable. Many economists have warned the whole time against a half-hearted oil embargo against Russia - saying it would divide Europe but not be damaging enough to Putin. They are right. No oil embargo would be better than one like this.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Orbán helps energy giants make huge profits

Hungary's prime minister had several reasons to circumvent the embargo, Večernji list believes:

“One can't help thinking there is something else behind this than the reason [ie: the severe disruption of energy supplies] that the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán finally sold to the EU, under threat of imposing his veto: money. Perhaps also loyalty to Putin, or more precisely Orbán's need to serve Russian interests as well, since he believes that by doing so he will also serve Hungary's. But mainly money, in that Orbán is enabling the Mol Group to procure cheaper Russian oil and petroleum products. The last thing he wants to do is to block his energy tycoons' modus operandi.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Hungary is the winner

Naftemporiki sums up:

“What has the EU's dispute over Russian oil revealed? First of all, the deep divide between the 27 countries. Countries like Hungary, but also the Czech Republic and Slovakia, will continue to receive oil via the Druzhba pipeline. Secondly, the dispute has shown that the winner is the one who fights back - citing good reasons for their country's national interests, of course. Regardless of what one may think of Orbán - and of course that is not much - he deserves credit for defending the interests of his country, which is more than 80 percent dependent on Russian oil, right to the last minute.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Moscow's calculation will pay off

Helsingin Sanomat says the compromise does not go far enough:

“Europe, led by Germany, is pursuing a strategy of helping Ukraine and punishing Russia: we must help Ukraine, but not too much. We must punish Russia, but not too much. We must isolate Russia, but not too much. ... If the EU opts for a permanently fragmented oil boycott, this will play right into Putin's hands: the West is too fond of its comfort to remain on the front line against Russia for long enough to ensure that Russia suffers as a result. It will be a mandate to continue the killing.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

One country blocking the entire EU

The deal now reached is not satisfactory for anyone, Jutarnji list comments:

“Although some states had 'specific demands', in the end Hungary was the biggest obstacle to the adoption of the planned sanctions. Because of it, the plan was watered down to make the oil import embargo acceptable to all. In other words, the idea of a complete embargo was dropped and ways were sought to limit the ban - at least initially - to oil imports by sea. ... This accommodates those countries that have no access to the sea. ... And even on this point it was not easy to reach a consensus, as it did not completely satisfy the Hungarian demands.”

Népszava (HU) /

Lacking solidarity will come at a high cost

The fact that Hungary didn't end its energy dependence on Russia sooner is now taking its toll, Népszava writes:

“It was 15 years ago - after Putin's about-face - that Russian energy sources became a potential risk. America's plans for the Nabucco pipeline to bring Azerbaijani gas to Europe was supported by the opposition at the time, while the government was at best suspicious. ... Ukraine now expects Europe to stop its [oil] imports immediately so that it doesn't continue to finance Putin's war. According to Russian economists in the West, that would be a cheaper solution than a conflict that drags on for years. Those who now only take their own situation into account stand to lose a lot; perhaps everything.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

EU suffers, Russia benefits

A complete oil embargo would be a major geopolitical mistake, entrepreneur Carl-Alexandre Robyn warns in La Libre Belgique:

“This is economic realpolitik: what we no longer buy from the Russians is a windfall for the rest of the world. Other nationalist, autocratic economic powers are then given the assurance that they will receive sufficient supplies at low prices, and that in turn would allow Putin to pursue his plans and objectives undeterred. Not only the EU is dependent on hydrocarbons, but also the rest of the world. ... What we have secured from Russia for a good price so far will now cost us significantly more, while Putin will not lose a kopek in this transformation of the energy market.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Remove all blockades!

The West is pursuing a self-destructive course, complains columnist Simon Jenkins in The Guardian:

“It is absurd to expect Hungary to starve itself of energy and, as it says, 'nuclear bomb' its economy, with no fixed objective or timetable in sight. ... The objective - to compel Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine - has patently not been achieved. Military aid has been far more effective in that respect. But the harm done to the rest of Europe and the outside world is now glaring. The EU should stick to helping Ukraine's war effort and withdraw economic sanctions against Russia. They are self-defeating and senselessly cruel.”