European Union diplomats failed to reach consensus Sunday on the terms of an embargo, but held further talks Monday in preparation for a summit of EU leaders in Brussels later in the day.
Arriving at the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he believed there was a will to achieve consensus, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen cautioned that it was unlikely a deal would be struck before the meeting ends Tuesday.
“One thing is clear, if you decide to act in a group, you always have to consider the specific situations of all countries. We have done this in the past, and we will do this in the future,” Scholz said, when asked about possible exemptions for Hungary and others.
“Our strength comes from our ability to solve our problems together, and therefore can act together against the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Europe is the biggest buyer of Russian energy. Russian crude accounted for 27% of the bloc’s imports in 2021, according to Eurostat. That’s around 2.4 million barrels per day, data from the International Energy Agency shows. About 35% of that was delivered via pipelines to the bloc, according to the IEA.
But pipeline deliveries made up a much bigger share of Russian oil shipments to Hungary (86%), the Czech Republic (97%) and Slovakia (100%).
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Monday an embargo which excluded pipeline imports was a “good approach,” but cautioned that a back up plan was needed in case oil deliveries failed due to an accident.
Care must be taken, however, to ensure any exemptions do not unfairly benefit some countries over others, the senior EU diplomat told CNN.
“We have to be really careful in the legal sanctions text, that we preserve the [EU] internal market everywhere, and that we preserve the level playing field,” the diplomat said.
“I am very worried about what a recession in Europe would do to European resolve to stick with it and continue to escalate the sanctions,” Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who previously served as President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, told CNN Business at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.
— Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.