Germany is working on finding alternative fuel supplies, most urgently for the Russian oil that comes by pipeline to a refinery in Schwedt operated by Russian state company Rosneft. (illustrative photo)
European Union ministers have met in Brussels to discuss a response to Russia cutting gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria and plans for a possible oil embargo to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.
French Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili, whose country holds the EU presidency, said she called the emergency meeting to "ensure our solidarity with our colleagues from Bulgaria and Poland."
But the ministers also discussed a potential embargo of Russian oil while acknowledging the economic impact of such a move. EU diplomats have said that the bloc is leaning toward a ban on Russian oil by the end of the year as part of a sixth package of sanctions against Russia.
Polish Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said the ministers would support "full sanctions on all Russian fossil fuels," noting that the EU had already imposed an embargo on coal, which will take effect from August. "Now it's time for oil," she said.
Poland is among the EU member states that have spoken in favor of an embargo, while others, most notably Germany, have been wary of the economic fallout of a ban. But two German ministers on May 2 signaled a shift in Germany's position.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany "is not against an oil ban on Russia."
This is the case regardless of whether the stoppage is immediate or by the end of the year, Habeck told reporters in Brussels before talks with his EU colleagues. He said it would be a heavy burden, but added, "We would be ready to do that."
Finance Minister Christian Lindner made similar comments to a German broadcaster.
"With coal and oil, it is possible to forgo Russian imports now," Lindner told WELT, adding that an increase in fuel prices cannot be ruled out.
Germany is working on finding alternative fuel supplies, most urgently for the Russian oil that comes by pipeline to a refinery in Schwedt operated by Russian state company Rosneft.
Habeck said an embargo in a few months would give Germany time to organize tankers that bring oil to ports in the north of the country that would flow through pipelines to Schwedt.
"It would help to have weeks or months to do all the technical preparations," he said. "We would have to find ships that carry oil from west to east, we have to prepare the harbors, we have to prepare the pipelines. So time is helpful but I think other countries have bigger problems."
The other issue occupying the ministers was Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand that "unfriendly countries" pay for their gas in rubles. Poland and Bulgaria refused to do so and their gas supplies were cut last week.
The European commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, said Russia's decision to cut off the two EU members showed that Moscow was not a "reliable supplier" and denied Russian reports that some EU countries have agreed to make ruble payments.