‘Low expectations’ on reaching Russian oil embargo deal at summit: EU chief

Hungarian prime minister appreciates new version of sanctions draft but prepares to fight to get exemptions for his country.

‘Low expectations’ on reaching Russian oil embargo deal at summit: EU chief

The EU Commission head on Monday said that she has “low expectations” that EU leaders would reach a deal on an embargo of Russian oil in the “next 48 hours.”

While the leaders are set to discuss financial support for Ukraine, energy transition, global food crisis, and defense reforms according to the official agenda, the main question remains if they can reach an agreement on introducing an embargo on Russian oil imports.

A new version of sanctions has been presented to the leaders ahead of the summit, covering more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia, and granting temporary exceptions to certain countries to ensure the security of supply.

Speaking to reporters on the way to the meeting, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he “heard of signs that there can be a consensus” while Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin insisted on finding a solution at the summit.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said he is “fully confident” that the leaders will find an agreement during the summit, stressing that "we have to stop funding of the Russian war machine."

However, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, for her part, said she had “low expectations” that EU leaders will solve the deadlock in the “next 48 hours” but expressed hope for an agreement after the end of the EU summit.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the main opponent of the oil embargo, called the latest version of sanctions a “good approach” because it only imposes the embargo on oil shipped by sea and exempts pipeline oil.

“They won’t throw a nuclear bomb on our economy,” he said, adding that details on pipeline oil shipments and projects to replace Russian energy imports will be discussed at later meetings.

At the same time, he said, he will have to fight with his counterparts on getting guarantees that in case Hungary stops receiving supplies through the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline, it will have the right to continue buying Russian oil by sea shipping.

He also voiced criticism of the “irresponsible behavior” of the European Commission for presenting its sanctions proposal in early May without “properly negotiating with member states.”

Negotiations between EU member states have been stalled for over a month on the sixth sanctions package.

EU ambassadors could not reach an agreement on the sanctions package during the weekend and reconvened on Monday morning as a last attempt to draft a compromise before the start of the EU summit.