Despite Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian energy, European Union officials are drafting a plan to ban Russian oil, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
Last week, the EU announced a ban on Russian coal, which will be phased out by the European countries over a four-month period. EU officials and diplomats told the Times that the oil ban would also take a phased approach to give Germany and other countries that are more reliant on Russian energy time to find alternatives.
Officials said that the earliest the Russian oil ban could be negotiated is after the second round of France’s presidential election on April 24 to help French President Emmanuel Macron’s chances against Marine Le Pen, a right-wing populist who favors better relations with Russia.
The EU fears that the impact on prices at the pump could hurt Macron. The French leader is less hawkish towards Moscow than his EU and NATO counterparts, but Le Pen’s calls to reduce Paris’ role in NATO have spooked other Western powers, including the US.
The timeline and details of the oil ban are meant to convince all 27 EU members to go ahead with the measure despite the impact it will have on Europe’s economy. Hungary has been resistant to the idea and said future sanctions should be decided by EU leaders rather than senior diplomats or ministers. The Times report said Hungary’s stance could lead to an emergency summit to debate the topic.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had previously said that his country would pay for Russian gas in rubles after Moscow ordered gas purchases to be made in the Russian currency. But according to Reuters, an internal European Commission note said purchasing Russian gas in rubles would violate the EU’s sanctions regime against Moscow.