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in the European Council, a very relative “unity” in the face of Russia

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“Unity”, “unity”: in all languages, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, had, on the night of Monday May 30 to Tuesday May 31, only this word in his mouth, while nearly he month of tough negotiations between the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) was necessary to reach an agreement on the sixth package of sanctions against Moscow – which notably contains an embargo on Russian oil.

Viktor Orban, “the terrible child”

But this unity is quite relative, so much the talks between the Europeans have been upset by the Hungarian desiderata. The sanctions package, as proposed in early May by the European Commission, in fact envisaged a total shutdown of oil supplies. But from the outset, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, considered for a long time as the “terrible child” of the great European family, considered that such a measure would go against the interests of his country.

So it’s a solution ” custom made “according to the term used by a European source, which had to be found to satisfy all the delegations – especially since Slovakia sided with Budapest’s opinion.

France, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU until the end of June, has shown unfailing creativity by submitting the hypothesis of cutting in two, nothing less, the provisions of the package of sanctions relating to oil, the enlargement of the EU blacklist to around sixty personalities and the exclusion of new Russian banks from the international financial system Swift posing less of a problem.

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A two-step embargo

The agreement reached between the Twenty-Seven provides, before the end of the year, for the end of oil shipments by boat – ie two thirds of European purchases from Russia. It is only in a second phase that European imports via the Druzhba pipeline should end. Hungary is largely dependent on it – 65% of the oil consumption of this landlocked country passes through this pipeline – and Slovakia too.

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The northern branch of this pipeline serves Germany and Poland in particular, which have, at the national level, decided to do without these supplies of Russian oil. “We will complete as soon as possible with the southern branch” (which goes to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Ed), promises a European source. But since European creativity has no limits, no deadline is set in the conclusions of the European Council.

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A close agreement

He simply asks “to the Council (to EU ministers, editor’s note) to finalize and adopt without delay” this new set of sanctions, and this “by ensuring the proper functioning of the EU single market, fair competition, solidarity between Member States and a level playing field also with regard to the gradual phasing out of our dependence on Russian fossil fuels”.

→ RECAP. Investigation into the death of a French journalist, new sanctions against Russia

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen who, on her arrival at the European Council, was particularly skeptical about the ability of the Twenty-Seven to agree on this burning issue “in the next 48 hours”said to herself ” happy “ one ” agreement in principle “ could be found.

Thanks to this agreement, which was just obtained, “90% of Russian oil imports to the EU can in fact be stopped by the end of the year”. But there again, this symbolic bar of 90% is only reached because Berlin and Warsaw are turning away from themselves from the now famous Druzhba pipeline.

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