European Union diplomats failed to reach a consensus Sunday on the terms of an embargo, but held further talks on Monday ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels later in the day.
Coming to the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he believed there was a desire to reach a consensus, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned it was unlikely an agreement is reached before the end of the meeting on Tuesday.
“One thing is clear, if you decide to act as a group, you always have to take into account the specific situations of all countries. We have done this in the past and we will do it in the future,” said Scholz, when asked about possible exemptions for Hungary and others.
“Our strength comes from our ability to solve our problems together, and therefore to act together against Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Europe is the biggest buyer of Russian energy. Russian crude accounted for 27% of the bloc’s imports in 2021, according to Eurostat. That’s about 2.4 million barrels per day, according to data from the International Energy Agency. About 35% of that was delivered via pipelines to the block, according to the IEA.
But pipeline deliveries accounted for a much larger share of Russian oil shipments to Hungary (86%), the Czech Republic (97%) and Slovakia (100%).
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday that an embargo that excluded pipeline imports was a “good approach”, but warned that a back-up plan was needed if oil deliveries failed due to an accident.
Care must be taken, however, that any exemption does not unfairly benefit some countries over others, the top EU diplomat told CNN.
“We have to be very careful in the text of legal sanctions, that we preserve the [EU] internal market everywhere and that we maintain a level playing field,” the diplomat said.
“I’m very worried about what a recession in Europe would do to the European will to stick with it and continue to ramp up sanctions,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who previously served as the chief economic adviser to the government. President Barack Obama, to CNN Business at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.
— Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.