Two senior ministers suggested that Germany would support a ban by the European Union on Russian oil imports.
These comments were made as EU officials prepare for the unveiling of the latest round sanctions this week, which could include a request for a ban by the end the year.
This is the latest indication that Olaf Scholz (German chancellor) has changed his cautious approach towards weaning the country from Russian energy.
The EU could offer the two countries exemptions to get around opposition from Hungary and Slovakia. They are more dependent than Germany on Russian oil than Germany.
Robert Habeck, Economy Minister, stated that Germany would support an EU-wide ban regardless of whether it was immediate or at the end of the calendar year.
“Germany does not support an oil ban on Russia.” It is a heavy burden to bear, but we would be willing to do it,” Mr Habeck said to reporters in Brussels prior to talks with EU colleagues.
Christian Lindner, Finance Minister of the pro-business Free Democrats said that the German economy can tolerate an immediate ban.
Lindner stated to WELT that “with coal and oil it is possible forgo Russian imports currently.”
“It is not impossible to predict that fuel prices will rise.”
EU has new oil sanctions
This comes after two EU diplomats stated over the weekend, that the bloc is moving towards a ban of Russian oil by the end the year as part a sixth set of sanctions against Russia.
There could be exemptions for countries such as Hungary or Slovakia, which are heavily dependent upon Russian crude oil.
EU officials also warned that anyone who complies with Moscow’s demand to pay gas bills by roubles will be subject to existing sanctions.
Moscow would lose a substantial revenue stream if the latest package included an embargo against Russian oil purchases.
Russia supplies 40% of EU’s gas and 26% its oil imports.
“There will be price increases”
Despite some concerns from the 27-member bloc about the possibility of an oil ban, support from Europe’s largest economy for such a proposal is declining.
Prior to the Russian invasion in Ukraine at the beginning of February, Germany reduced its share of Russian oil in Ukraine from 35% – 12%
Germany is currently looking for alternative fuel sources, especially for Russian oil. This comes via a pipeline to a Schwedt refinery. It supplies the east German regions as well as the Berlin metropolitan region.
Green Party member Mr Habeck said that there is “still no solution” to how to replace it.
He said, “We cannot guarantee that supplies will remain constant.”
There will be price increases and outages. However, that does not mean that we will fall into an oil crises.
It would be helpful to have weeks, or even months to prepare all the technical details before a total ban.
UK ban ‘tokenistic’
Greenpeace has called the UK’s ban against Russian-owned or operated ships “tokenistic”. Eight tankers with PS220 million worth of oil imports have arrived in Britain since the invasion.
Russia supplies 18% UK diesel. This is used mainly for cars and heavy transport as well as farm vehicles and fishing boats.
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In an effort to stop Moscow from having “a valuable source income”, the UK has pledged to phase out Russian oil by the year’s end.
Greenpeace stated that this ban at the end of the year is too late. Analysis by the organisation indicated how much money Moscow could have before the ban takes effect.
Russia demanded that oil payments be made in Russian rubles in order to support its falling currency, which has been hard hit by sanctions.