European Union leaders have just concluded a two-day meeting in Brussels, which focused on the 6th sanctions package proposed by the European Commission in April. Following lengthy discussions, EU leaders struck a deal,late in the evening, imposing new sanctions on Russia.
Today’s discussion focused primarily on energy and the investments that need to be undertaken to wean off Russian dependence. The European Council called for further diversification of supply sources and routes, securing energy supply at affordable prices; accelerating the deployment of renewables, further improving energy efficiency, taking into account notably the insular character of certain Member States; and completing and improving the interconnection of European gas and electricity networks by investing in and completing infrastructure for existing and new projects, including LNG and future-proof electricity and hydrogen-ready gas interconnections throughout the European Union, including island Member States.
Prime Minister Robert Abela stressed the importance of considering the peculiarities of island Member States, like Malta and Cyprus, on the question of energy interconnection. Malta successfully conveyed the importance of these issues during the European Council, which now includes a reference to island Member States in the European Council Conclusions.
On Monday, EU leaders approved further sanctions against Russia. The 6th package of sanctions will ban Russian oil transhipments to the #EU, effectively ending the EU’s dependency on Russian crude oil by the end of the year. However, Hungary argued for a temporary exemption for its pipeline, the Druzhba, as its dependence on Russian oil amounts to 65%. Additionally, Hungary also successfully made a case for a solidarity clause and for exceptional measures to be taken should the pipeline infrastructure be somehow affected by the war in Ukraine.
This could be described as a win-win situation for the EU and Hungary, as the EU emerged united in the face of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. At the same time, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic were given more time to adjust their crude oil deliveries.
To safeguard the Single Market’s integrity and ensure a level playing among the Member States, Germany and Poland gave assurances that their purchases of crude oil through the Druzhba pipeline will also cease by the end of the year.
The 6th package will target Sberbank, one of the largest banking institutions in Russia, the Russian patriarch and three television channels.
Heeding comments made by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, blaming the European Commission for the impasse on the 6th package, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged the situation and noted that negotiations over the 7th package would need to be tackled differently.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister expressed gratitude following the approval of the sanctions stating that “The sanctions will impact 75% of Russian oil imports just now. And 90% will be banned by the end of the year”.
Regarding defence, discussions were held in a context of a massive increase in defence spending by Germany, which will now be around 2% of the GDP.
While the agreement on the Russian oil ban is a significant blow to Putin, the devil will be in the detail when the EU Ambassadors return to their meetings to analyse the legal text that will implement this agreement. Negotiations on the details could be excruciatingly contentious. The discussions held over these two days demonstrate what lies ahead when the 7th package is proposed, mainly if gas imports are included.
Read the full text of the adopted European Council Conclusions