And the next steps?
It is not yet possible to say which are the precise parameters that we cannot define. Anyway, we have to stick together, this is more important than speed. But we also have to remain economically strong – also to continue to receive public support. Because it is now difficult for any head of government to explain inflation, rising food prices, high energy costs.
We need to calibrate our responses to Russia so that sanctions don’t hit us harder than Russia, and they need to contribute to Ukraine’s victory.
Would a European gas embargo against Russia be a step that would hit us harder?
That would depend on how and when you implement it. EU countries have very different requirements. Austria and Slovakia, for example, were previously on the distribution side – and now, all of a sudden, we could end up on the other side of the supply chain.
What is absolutely necessary to mitigate the effects is solidarity between EU states. This would mean that countries that now receive the oil or gas first share it with others. Austria’s chemical and oil industry has been developing for decades on the basis of Russian crude, so there was a special technical process and now it takes money and time to reorient.
But it’s about sending a signal to Russia: we, its biggest customer, no longer want to help finance its war machine. By the end of the year, the EU wants to reduce its energy imports from Russia by two thirds.
Is it okay for countries like Hungary to want compensation for their losses in the oil business?
We in the Commission know what we ask of States. Each country has its specific situation and its specific industry. And we had completely different expectations for this year: great economic growth, recovery after Covid-19, but now we are dealing with this horrible war in Ukraine. The important thing is the direction we need to go: to reduce Russia’s energy dependence.
Will the oil embargo be enforced?
Yes, if we as the EU were to respond together with this measure, it would be the best response for May 9 – Russia’s Victory Day Parade in Red Square. So honestly, I wonder what there is to celebrate.