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Europeans doubt they can quickly decide on an embargo on Russian gas

European Heads of State and Government avoided the worst and were able to agree, during a meeting in Brussels on the night of Monday 30 to Tuesday 31 May, on the sixth package of sanctions, including the embargo on Russian oil is undoubtedly the most emblematic measure. But they know very well that it will be difficult for them to go further.

Since February 24 and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the Twenty-Seven have multiplied the restrictive measures against Moscow, thwarting the predictions of all those who, including among them, thought that they would be divided and powerless. They attacked the Russian financial sector, oligarchs and others close to the Kremlin, state television stations and, above all, the Russian energy sector. From August, they will do without its coal and, by the end of the year, they will have given up 90% of their imports of Russian oil.

But what follows is more complicated. Tuesday, May 31, in any case, the European Heads of State and Government left Brussels, after a second day of Council, without having many illusions about their ability to quickly decide on a gas embargo.

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“Nobody wants to buy energy from Russia. Russia, a barbaric country, a country that cannot be counted on in any way”certainly launched the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, very advanced in the fight against Moscow. “That is why we are discussing how to quickly move away not only from Russian hydrocarbons like coal or oil, but also, in the longer term, from gas”he explained.

Emmanuel Macron talks to his European colleagues during a Council of Europe summit in Brussels on May 30, 2022.

Macron judges that “nothing should be excluded”

In reality, Warsaw is in the minority on this issue. Even the Baltic states, which traditionally make no concessions to Moscow, are less determined. “We will have to talk about a seventh sanctions package because the situation is not improving in Ukraine. But gas is, of course, much more difficult than oil”underlined the Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas. “Gas must be part of the seventh package, but I am also realistic, I do not think it will be”she continued.

Karl Nehammer, the Austrian Chancellor, also ruled out the option of additional sanctions. “It is easier to compensate for an oil embargo, it is very different for gas in terms of security of supply. This is why we will not discuss an embargo for the next package”, he decided. Same story on the Belgian side: Alexander De Croo pleaded for ” pause “.

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