The EU ban on Russian oil is a major achievement, but the borders of Western unity will face further tests
Getting 27 countries, many of which are completely dependent on Russian energy, to agree on a package that would almost certainly destroy their economies on behalf of Ukraine, a country not even in the European Union, was even unimaginable. months ago.
However, the deal has flaws that reveal the limitations of European unity and signal headaches for the bloc in the future.
First and foremost, the deal does not include oil that is imported through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a key ally of Vladimir Putin in the European Union, began on Monday criticizing the European Union Commission as “irresponsible” for endangering the economies of these countries. He ended the day with a video message saying: “We were able to defeat the Commission’s proposal to ban the use of oil from Russia in Hungary.”
Needless to say, an EU leader’s celebration of the defeat of a key EU institution is a fly in the ointment for those who claim the deal was a victory for European unity.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the pipeline issue would be discussed again, but did not predict a time frame.
Given how difficult the oil pipeline problem is, it is logical to assume that Europe is some way off from agreeing on what to do about Russian natural gas, on which the continent depends more than Russian oil.
Member states can also differ on issues that are directly or tangentially related to the war in Ukraine. Should Ukraine join the European Union? Should the EU have a more aggressive foreign and defense policy? Should countries like Hungary be able to hold the rest of the bloc to ransom with a veto, and how can the EU fix that?
It’s been tough days in Brussels, and EU officials can breathe a sigh of relief as this deal finally got there. But there will be plenty of arguments before this crisis is over – and the limits of European unity can still be stretched to breaking point.