Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban blocked an EU boycott of Russian oil for weeks. A compromise was reached at a summit meeting in Brussels. This is how the press at home and abroad commented on the sanctions decision.
The EU oil embargo against Russia is coming, but the previous unanimity of Europeans towards Moscow has cracked: After weeks of discussions, the EU states have agreed on an extensive boycott of oil supplies from Russia. However, the agreement reached at a summit in Brussels reveals that after three months the EU is finding it increasingly difficult to react with one voice to the Russian war against Ukraine. The heads of state and government of the 27 states are still trying to be united. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban could only be persuaded to agree to the embargo plans through significant concessions.
According to the compromise made on Tuesday night, the import of Russian oil by ship should be banned. However, the import ban via water will not take effect until the end of the year at the earliest. Overland deliveries via pipeline remain permitted.
“Inaction and running out of time are Vladimir Putin’s best allies”
Hungary had argued that the country could not do without Russian oil anytime soon for economic reasons. The neighboring countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic joined. In order to persuade Orban to give in, he was promised money from EU pots for the conversion of his country’s oil infrastructure after his blockade for weeks. In the event of sudden delivery problems, Hungary should also be allowed to obtain oil by tanker despite the embargo.
This is how newspapers from Germany and the world comment on the EU’s oil compromise.
“Allgemeine Zeitung” (Mainz): “Putin can let his oil continue to flow. There is even the possibility that he can initially even raise prices due to the shortage – and earn more money for his war chest. In addition, Putin has been given enough time to to find new buyers. In the long term, the multitude of sanctions will harm the Russian dictator, and resources will be scarce. But that will take well into next year. Putin has once again had a moment to catch his breath. And he knows: the nerves are in the EU are tense. Every head of government is under enormous pressure in his own country and could quickly become nervous. The European Union must move closer together again. But she hardly has time for this: After all, the seventh package of sanctions is to be prepared as quickly as possible. And that holds even more Fuel: Because a gas embargo is currently hardly imaginable.”
“Reutlinger General-Anzeiger”: “Despite the limited economic consequences for Russia, the oil embargo is still a political signal to Putin. It shows that Germany and the EU are putting an end to the old policy of gas and oil contracts It’s all about the economy and the cheapest price counts. The current dependence on Russia shows how wrong that is. Germany and Europe have made themselves susceptible to blackmail. It’s good that a rethink is now beginning. Energy policy should not be based on wishful thinking, but on a realistic consideration of all hazards based.”
“Mitteldeutsche Zeitung” (Halle): “The same applies to the oil embargo as to any compromise: neither side could have achieved anything without making compromises. An agreement is no reason to badmouth the EU – on the contrary. Even the question Whether Orban’s domestically driven course is legitimate remains a question of perspective, although he leaves an ice-cold populist impression when he ignores the suffering of the Ukrainians and acts as a defender of the Hungarian families, whose heating oil he doesn’t turn off.
But it is also an illusion if the other heads of government of the EU believe that they can simply assume the support of their people for a tough course of sanctions – which may be necessary for a very long time – no matter how noticeable the consequences are.”
“Leipziger Volkszeitung”: “In Schwedt and Leuna, thousands of jobs would be at risk in regions where disappointment with the political elite is already widespread and socially explosive. From this perspective, Scholz and Habeck can secretly be happy that dependence on Russia is Orban is high on troublemakers. By getting pipeline oil exempted from the embargo, he also bought the East German sites time to make the switch nevertheless correct – also in the sense of the refineries in East Germany. Because the popular myth there of the Russians always delivering reliably can quickly prove to be a fallacy.”
“Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”: “With the oil embargo light as part of a sixth sanctions package that the EU now wants to impose against Russia, the community has been able to maintain its common line in the face of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. With the compromise after weeks of arguments above all with Hungary, the Union narrowly avoided embarrassment. The sense of such an oil boycott may well be questioned. If Putin should succeed in getting the black gold sold elsewhere, the European embargo will be for naught. And actually stand China and India, with their enormous thirst for energy, have long since been ready as buyers.”
“El Mundo”, Spain: “The agreement on the EU embargo on Russian oil is not as satisfactory as it could be. Mainly because oil by pipeline remains exempt, a demand by Hungary, which was supported by Slovakia and the Czech Republic The Visegrad Group is behaving like a Trojan horse of Russian interests in the heart of Europe.Putin’s war in Ukraine and his threats against other countries are forcing us to examine Visegrad’s – and especially Orban’s – loyalty to the values of the EU that are diametrically opposed to Putin’s nationalist autocracy.
When EU countries cannot reach unity, when they allow opposing currents in their midst that spread illiberalism and abuse the power of veto, then it is time to move to majority rule. Perhaps these societies and their political class will then really opt for integration, security and freedom under the umbrella of the EU. Just like Poland, which has been exemplary in both refugee aid and sanctions since the outbreak of war.”
“Wall Street Journal”, USA: “Lo and behold, after a month of wrangling, the 27 member states of the European Union have agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russian oil. The sanctions will not turn the tide in the war in Ukraine, they will increase them However, the cost to Vladimir Putin and underscores Europe’s determination to punish him.(…) Higher oil prices will no doubt hurt the West, but perhaps not as much as the sanctions could harm Putin.Russia has had oil in the past year Exported worth around $180 billion, about three times as much as gas. Rosneft’s revenues alone account for about a fifth of the Kremlin’s budget.(…) However, the oil sanctions show that Europe is willing to make some economic sacrifices to help Ukraine and ward off Kremlin aggression.(…) Europe would be far less economically vulnerable if it weren’t so dependent on Russian oil and d gas would have done. But having made this mistake, Europe is now trying to free itself from the Kremlin’s energy lever. The oil embargo is a step in the right direction.”
“The Guardian”, Great Britain: “In the run-up to the EU summit in Brussels, German Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck warned that agreement on sanctions against Russia was beginning to crumble. If this assessment shakes up the EU heads of state and government at a crucial moment should, it seems to have just about fulfilled its purpose.
The partial embargo on Russian oil imports agreed at the summit represents a significant, albeit belated, increase in economic pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime transported to Central Europe by a Soviet-era pipeline. Since Germany and Poland will refrain from imports from this source, the embargo should cover over 90 percent of Russian oil shipments to Europe by the end of the year. Over time, and in conjunction with other sanctions, the embargo will result in Moscow being deprived of funds and resources for a protracted war of attrition that it did not anticipate.”
“DNA”, France: “Europeans and Americans were convinced that they could slowly suffocate the Kremlin ruler (Russian President Vladimir Putin) with economic and political sanctions. However, the western strategy did not achieve its goals either. (…)
Russia is now reclaiming a meager advantage in this war of losers. It’s no longer Soviet, but remains a solid block.
The European Union, on the other hand, has appeared somewhat divided and too often passive in recent weeks. It was crucial to stop this spiral. With the (…) agreement on a ‘sixth package of sanctions’ against Moscow, which also includes an embargo on imports of Russian oil, the EU states have again taken the initiative at the right time. You must never forget that inaction and the passage of time are Vladimir Putin’s best allies.”
“Rzeczpospolita”, Poland: “The EU decided on the first five sanctions packages against Russia within two months. It took another month before agreement was reached on the sixth point. But even this success is half-hearted at best. Closes due to Hungarian resistance the agreement not only exports oil transported by pipeline, but also the part related to shipments by ship will not come into effect until the end of the year.
Unlike the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Germany and Poland have announced that they will stop importing crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline. But we, too, have set ourselves a deadline of the end of this year. For Ukrainians, these seven months are an eternity. That’s more than twice the length of the war that has claimed the country tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions of Ukrainians from their livelihoods and wiped out half of Ukraine’s economy. What’s left of Ukraine when we celebrate New Year’s Eve?”