Ukraine war: How reliant is the EU on Russian oil and what are the consequences of banning it? | World News


The European Union relies on Russia for 26% of its oil supply.

While it imports more gas (40%) than oil from Russia, the EU is considerably more reliant on Russian oil than its Western allies.

Both the UK and the US have already sanctioned Russian oil over the war in Ukraine, but neither were very dependent before the ban, importing just 14% and 3% respectively.

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Before the war began, last year Russian revenue from EU energy exports made up a fifth of the Kremlin’s budget – and have helped finance its war against Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has admitted that weaning the bloc off Russian oil “will not be easy”, with some member states “strongly dependent” on it.

But announcing the decision she said: “We simply have to do it… Vladimir Putin must pay a price, a high price for his brutal aggression.”

What is the EU pledging?

Europe has so far been hesitant to follow the UK and US in banning Russian oil, with its most dependent member states threatening to veto a ban.

But as part of a new package of sanctions on Wednesday, Ms von der Leyen announced that all member states will have stopped buying Russian oil within six months, and associated products by the end of 2022.

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EU to ban Russian oil by end of year

“This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined,” she told the EU parliament in Strasbourg.

Russia is the third largest oil exporter in the world, behind the US and Saudi Arabia and produces several types of crude oil, exporting it via pipeline, tanker and rail.

Its main export is Urals, a medium sour crude oil used to make heavy oil products such as diesel and fuel oil.

Which EU countries are most dependent on Russian oil?

Oil refineries across the EU consume about 1.23 million barrels of Russian oil a day – but some countries use more than others.

Member states will need to vote on the proposed oil embargo, with those more dependent less likely to support one.

Central and eastern European countries are the most reliant on Moscow for oil, with Slovakia now depending on it for 90% of its supply.

Before the war in January this year, data showed it used 77% Russian oil, while Estonia depended on it for 44% of supply and Hungary for 41%.

Following Slovakia and Hungary’s threats to veto any embargo, the EU has granted them a concession that gives them until 2023 to cut themselves off.

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Germany, despite being initially reluctant, has managed to reduce its dependency on Russian oil from 29% before the war to 25% – and says it could now cope with a ban.

The Netherlands, which used 22% Russian oil before the invasion, could also struggle amid failures to build up sufficient diverse alternatives.

What are the consequences for the EU and beyond?

As soon as the embargo was announced, the price of Brent crude increased by more than 3% to $108 (£86) a barrel, which will push up oil and petrol prices worldwide.

To wean themselves off Russian supplies, countries have agreed to release emergency oil stocks to make up demand.

In March, members of the International Energy Agency (IEA) committed to releasing 62.7 million barrels, with a further 120 million pledged in April.

But the EU only has enough emergency stocks to last between 90 and 100 days.

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How Russia affects our energy bills

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that options for replacing Russian oil are running out worldwide.

“Although more Russian oil is set to be shunned, capacity is creaking elsewhere as some OPEC nations continue to be constrained by production issues or others like Saudi Arabia have declined to turn on the taps more fully to respond to geopolitical tensions,” she said.

“The decision to drip feed a million barrels of oil a day from US stockpiles had helped bring down the price of crude, but with that emergency lever already pulled, there are very few options in play right now.”

Simone Tagliapietra of the Brussels-based Bruegel think-tank added that the European strategy also carries a high risk of increasing spiralling inflation in Europe.

“In the short term it might leave Russian revenues high while implying negative consequences for the EU and the global economy in terms of higher prices – not to mention retaliation risks (by Russia) on natural gas supplies,” he said.

Russian gas will now be the next target for sanctions, Ms Streeter adds, which would have even more dramatic economic consequences in Europe.


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