EU foreign ministers meet amid tensions over 6th sanctions package

The meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers started on Monday amid tensions over the proposal of an oil embargo as part of the bloc’s sixth sanctions package against Russia.

“Unfortunately, the whole (European) Union is held hostage by one country which cannot help us to find consensus,” Lithuania’s top diplomat Gabrelius Landsbergis told reporters on his way to the meeting.

He referred to Hungary, which has been opposing the adoption of the new sanctions package.

“The decisions, that Europe has been making during the past two and half months and the ones we will make today and in the near future, will define Europe for decades to come,” Landsbergis said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed the importance of discussions and understanding the reasons of every party, but expressed doubt if the situation would develop “because positions are quite strong.”

“It is an objective situation that some member states face more difficulties because they are more dependent, landlocked or they don’t have the possibility of receiving the tankers,” he explained.

At the same time, he promised to make efforts to “present a united front against Russia.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto did not talk to reporters ahead of the meeting, but he had explained earlier that his government cannot allow the enormous rise in petrol prices and bear the cost of building new infrastructure to replace Russian oil without EU financial support.

The EU has so far adopted five sets of sanctions over Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began in February. The penalties target individuals, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as bans the export of luxury goods, and coal imports, and excludes Russian and Belarusian banks from using the SWIFT international payment system.

The European Commission presented two weeks ago its proposal for the sixth package. In addition to the ban on Russian oil imports, it has suggested the exclusion of Sberbank from SWIFT, as well as the imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on more individuals, including Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.

In March, the EU executive body also revealed plans to cut gas imports by two-thirds by the end of this year by accelerating the green transition into renewables and securing fossil fuel supply from new partners, including the US and Middle East.

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