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EU pushes for 11 hours to reach agreement on Russia oil sanctions

EU pushes for 11 hours to reach agreement on Russia oil sanctions

European Union flags fly outside the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Top European Union diplomats met on Monday in a last-ditch effort to agree on Russia’s oil import sanctions before their leaders meet later in the day, trying to avoid showing discord over the bloc’s response to the decision. The war in Ukraine.

According to a new draft outcome of the summit, the 27 leaders must agree that the next round of sanctions will cover oil with a temporary exemption for pipeline-delivered crude, a compromise that ambassadors failed to agree on Sunday.

The text seen by Reuters, which may be amended again, confirms an agreement on seaborne oil sanctions, with sanctions on pipeline oil to Hungary, Slovakia and the sometime landlocked Czech Republic.

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The text suggested, however, that the meeting of leaders in Brussels in the afternoon will not finalize the terms of this temporary exemption.

Instead, they will ask diplomats and ministers to find a solution that also ensures fair competition between those who still have access to Russian oil and those who have been cut off.

That represented “limited progress”, an EU diplomat said, with so many details yet to be worked out for a full agreement at the two-day summit, that leaders would have few tangible results if the oil embargo stalemate to disable a broader package of sanctions on the table.

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In another sign of how EU leaders are struggling to agree on more sanctions, an EU diplomat said a planned ban on Russians holding EU property was dropped after Cyprus objected to it.

“After Russia’s attack on Ukraine we have seen what can happen when Europe stands united,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Sunday. “With the summit expected tomorrow, let’s hope it continues like this. But it has already started to crumble and collapse again.” Read more

EU aid

European Union leaders will announce their continued support for Ukraine to help it fend off Russia’s offensive and will discuss how to deal with the impact of the conflict, particularly the rise in energy prices and the impending food supply crisis.

However, the talks will be overshadowed by the month-long struggle to agree a sixth round of sanctions against Moscow, notably by Hungary.

Other elements in the latest package of sanctions include cutting Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank (SBMX.MM)of the SWIFT messaging system, banned Russian broadcasters from the European Union and added more people to the list whose assets had been frozen.

A tangible outcome of the summit will be agreement on a package of EU loans worth 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion), with a small grant component to cover part of the interest, for Ukraine to keep its government going and pay wages of around two. months.

A decision on how to raise funds will be made later.

According to draft summit outcomes seen by Reuters, the leaders will also support the creation of an international fund to rebuild post-war Ukraine, details to be determined later, and will address the legally fraught issue of confiscating frozen Russian assets. This purpose.

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Leaders will pledge to speed up work to help Ukraine transport its grain out of the country to global buyers via rail and truck as the Russian Navy closes regular sea routes and takes steps to become more independent of Russian energy faster.

The draft showed that leaders will explore ways to curb rising energy prices, including the feasibility of setting temporary price caps, to cut red tape on deploying renewables and invest in connecting national power grids across borders to better help each other. (1 dollar = 0.9296 euros)

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Additional reporting by Gabriella Bachinska, Kate Abnett, Philip Blinkinsop and Sabine Siebold; Writing by Ingrid Melander and Phil Blinkinsop; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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