Politics

Oil sanctions and the EU’s own future in focus This WEEK



EU ambassadors were deep in negotiations on Friday (6 May) afternoon — and were looking at continuing talks all weekend — as Hungary said it was ready to veto the latest sanctions package on Russia.

The 27 ambassadors had been trying to find common ground on the EU Commission’s proposal to phase out Russian crude oil imports within six months, and refined oil by the end of the year.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, and Slovakia all raised concerns.

But on Friday Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán said he was ready to veto the sixth sanctions package as his landlocked country’s economy needs four to five years to transition from Russian oil.

Orbán also said he did not want to support EU sanctions against the head of Russian Orthodox church Patriarch Kirill.

Hungary had previously warned that the energy embargo is a red line for Budapest. Orbán sent a letter to commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday detailing his concerns.

Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said that before the executive came out with the proposal there had been “consultation” with member states.

Russian ex-president Dmitry Medvedev on Friday praised Orbán, who has been the closest ally of the Kremlin in the EU for years.

“He [Orbán] refused to support an energy embargo that would be harmful to his economy and the crazy sanctions against religious figures,” Medvedev said, according to Russian news agency Tass.

Closer allies

On Thursday (12 May), European Council president Charles Michel and von der Leyen will be in Japan for the EU-Japan summit, and meet with prime minister Fumio Kishida.

The leaders will reinforce their partnership, as Russia’s war has spooked allies into closer relationships globally. They will work on aligning their sanctions against Russia, and are also expected to discuss humanitarian, political, and financial support to Ukraine.

In the European Parliament on Thursday Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto is expected to discuss with MEPs in the foreign affairs committee the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on his country, and its possible Nato membership.

As the largest nuclear plant in Europe has fallen under Russian control in Ukraine, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected in the parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday (10 May) to talk about the security of nuclear installations.

Europe’s future

In the meantime, Russia and Europe are preparing for Monday, 9 May — Europe day — which marks the end of the second world war on the continent.

There has been speculation that Russian president Vladimir Putin had been planning to celebrate some sort of victory in Ukraine, which his forces invaded in late February.

Meanwhile, top EU officials will be gathering in Strasbourg on Monday for the closing ceremony of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The conference was designed to get input from citizens into which direction the EU should head, following the migration and euro crisis, and Brexit.

However, the pandemic delayed the start of the conference by months, and institutional infighting about who should take charge of the conference has made its impact doubtful.

On Monday, the final report will be presented and European Parliament president Roberta Metsola. French president Emmanuel Macron, and von der Leyen will deliver speeches, and hold press conferences.

The success of the conference depends on what will happens next and if member states are willing to bring on some of the ideas and change the EU treaties in line with the citizens’ suggestions.

In the foreign affairs committee on Thursday, MEPs are set to adopt a series of recommendations to member states and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on how to further strengthen the EU’s response to global security threats.

On Tuesday, the inquiry committee into the illegal use of the Pegasus spyware will start its work, with a hearing with IT experts.

In the meantime, MEPs in the environment committee will on Wednesday (11 May) vote on draft legislation to strengthen the CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the EUs Fitfor55 package to reduce emissions.

The sixth Brussels Conference on supporting Syria and the region will take place on 9-10 May, which is a pledging event for Syria and the region.

The EU Commission on Wednesday is likely to come out with a European strategy for “a better internet” for children, and legislative proposals to effectively tackle child sexual abuse.



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