September 25, 2022

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Ukraine, negotiations on the upcoming EU sanctions

Negotiations on the sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine “continue in the Council”., so “at the moment there is no news”. In the absence of decisive developments over the weekend, the ball will pass to the foreign ministers, who will meet next Monday in Brussels for a long-awaited council. Hungary is still blocking the gradual ban on oil imports, which is demanding compensation and extensions.

Discussions are now taking place at the level of leaders and capitals, diplomatic sources in Brussels explain, to the point that Coreper did not touch the issue today. Next Monday the Foreign Affairs Council will meet, and in the absence of progress over the weekend, the stuck package will be brought to the table of ministers, who will try to undo the contract.

“The work continues – the Foreign Affairs Council will talk about it on Monday: I will give new political impetus to reach an agreement. I am sure we will get it. We need an agreement and we will get it, because we must,” High Representative Josep Borrell said in Weissenhaus, Germany, on the sidelines of the G7 ministerial meeting. To free ourselves from dependence on Russian oil.”

“We must understand – continued Borrell – the specific circumstances of each country. If there is no agreement at the ambassadorial level, then on Monday the ministers will have to give a political push, and I will take care of that.”

Even a senior EU official, before the meeting, is optimistic: “It will end in unity and something positive. Each member state will reflect its main concerns” in the package that will be approved at the end of negotiations. He stressed that “there will be an agreement and there will be unity” between the 27.

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However, Hungary continues to block the Sixth Package, so much so that some observers believe that one of the goals, in addition to discouraging the adoption of the Seventh Package banning gas imports from Russia, is to get the ban lifted from the Gas Commission. Hungarian Pnrr, discontinued as of May 2021, or receive equivalent financial compensation.

To the degree of emergence of alternative hypotheses. The first, the adoption of national sanctions at the age of 26, with Hungary left alone, was certainly ruled out by another EU official: “The coalition of the willing is not a concept” with EU citizenship, but belonging to “other institutions,” he said. Instead, two countries proposed to “unpack” the package: that is, in the meantime, adopt non-controversial sanctions (extension of the sanctions list, cut off contact with Swift of Sberbank and other banks, ban of three Russian exporters and some sectoral measures) and then we continue to deal with oil.

For now, that’s an option off the table, according to a diplomatic source. But another source acknowledges that this is a possibility, albeit as a last resort. “We will seek unity as much as possible – he says – negotiations are going on every day and I don’t know where it will lead. Of course, there is always the possibility to break things up. Or spend more time the whole package together.”

Also because this is the basic logic being heard in Brussels, after all, the ban on crude oil will be in effect in six months and only on refined products at the end of the year. Therefore, there are no convincing reasons, apart from the reasons for the photo (which are only secondary: so far the package has been blocked for ten days), which immediately impose approval of the penalties. Provided that the actual date does not advance.

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