It is almost certain now that after the horror pictures from the suburbs of Kyiv, new punitive measures will be taken against Putin’s Russia. According to the EU’s foreign affairs coordinator, Josep Borrell, member states will look into this “urgently”. According to another EU diplomat, it is now “inevitable” to massacre hundreds of civilians.
The question now is what punitive measures the European Union will take. So far, the country bloc has been hopelessly divided over the European ban on coal, oil and natural gas. Germany and Hungary in particular oppose this.
EU leaders recently agreed at a summit in Brussels to consider tightening existing sanctions. But insiders expect that the bloody events in Ukraine will lead to new punitive measures.
Russia has crossed a line again, so it seems in Brussels. Consequently, many EU leaders are increasing the pressure to go ahead with the move. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, is calling for action on oil and coal. Poland and the Baltic states want to turn off the gas tap for Russia. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have already stopped buying Russian gas.
But in the toolbox there are two more big options: ban Russian ships from European ports and ban all Russian banks from the international payment system Swift.
These are not easy sanctions: this time the consequences for Europe itself are very serious. “We are now entering more complex areas,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently warned, and the Netherlands is not imposing any blockade, but it is emphasizing the effects of the various options in Brussels.
For example, banning all Russian banks from Swift has consequences for coal, oil and gas payments. For this reason, the member states of the European Union previously reached a compromise to remove only some banks from the communication system for international payments. According to the Netherlands, banning Russian ships from the port of Rotterdam could have consequences for food security.
But the biggest split is over Putin’s fossil fuel boycott. Every day hundreds of millions of euros go to Russia for coal, oil and natural gas. So the ban has a huge impact on the war coffers. But at the same time, many member states are largely dependent on Russian imports.
Thus, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who was re-elected on Sunday, is drawing a red line: he believes that the consequences of energy sanctions for his people are too great. A striking side note: Just before the war, Orban went to the Kremlin on his own initiative to cut a gas deal with Putin.
All member states must agree to the EU sanctions, including Hungary. So far, Urban is not alone. Germany also opposes energy boycotts for fear of a severe recession. According to EU diplomats, Berlin is viewed with tension this week.
It now appears that the government of our eastern neighbors is open to debate. “We will take action in the coming days with our allies,” Chancellor Olaf Schultz announced on Sunday. Russian President Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences of their actions.”
The Group of Seven, which includes the richest industrialized nations, may begin a new round of sanctions in Brussels this week. Foreign ministers, among others, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom should already be in the Belgian capital for the NATO meeting.
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