LBelgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned of the “devastating” impact of an EU embargo on Russian gas and oil imports on Thursday as he arrived at the EU summit in Brussels.
The issue of new sanctions will also come up again at the summit. The heads of state and government could provide guidelines that will later be refined. This will no doubt be the case in order to close certain loopholes that persist, particularly via third countries. But probably not for a fuel embargo, as demanded by the USA, because it would hit the EU and some member states hard in return.
“Sanctions must have a stronger effect on the Russian side than on the European side,” emphasizes De Croo. “We are not at war with ourselves, we will not impose sanctions that unnecessarily weaken us.”
The head of government reminded that Europe has already decided to free itself from energy dependence on Russia. “All European countries are making this strategic decision step by step, it is an irrevocable decision that will have a serious impact on the Russian economy. But an embargo would have a devastating impact on the European economy and I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Alexander De Croo stresses the importance of lowering the cost of energy bills, for example through price caps as suggested by Belgium. However, this path seems less unanimous than joint gas purchases, thanks to which the EU would use its clout to lower prices when negotiating sales contracts.
Vladimir Putin’s call for gas imports to be calculated in rubles is unlikely to affect Belgium, which buys little Russian gas, but “if we change the elements of the contract, everything will be renegotiated, and with it the prices,” said Alexander De Croo.