(Bloomberg) -- Some European Union nations are saying it may be time to consider delaying a push to ban Russian oil so they can proceed with the rest of a proposed sanctions package if the bloc can’t persuade Hungary to back the embargo.
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Governments haven’t given up on their aim for a deal with Budapest on the full package, including a phased-in oil ban, by Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, according to EU diplomats.
But the idea of pushing off the move against Russian oil, which Hungary has said would be too damaging to its economy, is gaining support, the diplomats added. Other countries, however, are worried that removing it now would be a sign of weakness, another diplomat said.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban has suggested before that any oil ban would need to be discussed by EU leaders at a summit. The next one is scheduled for the end of May.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told reporters Friday that he would push foreign ministers to “provide the political impetus” for the package, including the oil embargo, if ambassadors fail to reach an agreement before then.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had scheduled a video call with Orban and regional leaders earlier this week to discuss a possible compromise. But the call was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled.
The EU’s proposal seeks to ban crude oil over the next six months and refined fuels by early January. The bloc had offered Hungary and Slovakia until the end of 2024 to comply with the sanctions and the Czech Republic until June of the same year since they are heavily reliant on Russian crude.
Hungary hardened its public stance Wednesday, saying it would withdraw its threat to block an embargo only if its imports via pipelines are excluded.
Additional countries, including Bulgaria, have begun to demand exemptions from the proposed ban as well.
“We requested and we’ll get the same exemptions from the oil embargo that the other European countries are getting,” Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told lawmakers Friday in Sofia. “When it’s important for Bulgaria, when we stand by our politics, we can defend our interests.”
EU sanctions require the unanimous backing of all 27 members. Aside from the oil ban, the bloc’s proposal for a sixth round of sanctions includes plans to cut three more Russian banks off the international payments system SWIFT and would ban providing consulting and public relations services to Russian companies, among other steps.
An EU strategy to wean itself off Russian energy by 2027 that is due next week is expected to outline a limited investment that will be needed in the shorter term on oil infrastructure to guarantee the security of supply to countries that are fully dependent on pipeline oil from Russia.
(Updates with Borrell, Bulgaria quotes starting in fifth paragraph)
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