The EU has faced widespread criticism for being too reliant on Russia for its oil and gas supplies and not sanctioning the tyrannical Putin as strongly as the US and the UK. The US has banned Russian oil and gas, while the UK has laid out plans to phase it out by the end of the year. The EU has yet to do so. However, this could change after the French election on Sunday April 24, according to experts speaking to German newspaper BILD.
They predict the EU is likely to push for an energy embargo once voters decide between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen on Sunday.
German economist Jens Südekum told BILD that so far, Europe has been reluctant to sanction oil and gas supplies from Russia out of consideration for its partner France.
He said: “Otherwise there would be the threat of severe protests in France. These had already been seen before with the yellow vest protests.”
Mr Südekum predicted once the election is over, this will change, as the paper outlined the resultant damage to despot Putin as “D-Day”.
The EU’s new found willingness to embargo oil and gas, Mr Südekum argues, is partly as a result of the rise in the price of gas.
He said: “The fear in Europe that Putin would then turn off the gas tap in revenge has thus become smaller.”
He added that Putin is now earning less with oil, due to supply line troubles caused by turning Ukraine, previously part of the journey of oil into the EU, into a war zone.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already announced that Brussels was developing “clever mechanisms” to sanction Russian oil.
The EU has previously announced plans to limit gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year.
Previously, 40 percent of the EU’s gas was imported from Russia.
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Meanwhile, Russia only provides about 5% of the UK’s gas supplies, and the US doesn’t import any Russian gas.
This has made it considerably more difficult for the EU to commit to cutting Russian gas out of its economy – although it does mean that if Mr Südekum’s prediction is correct, the blow to Russia’s economy would be extremely severe if the EU does make the decision.
While Mr Südekum claimed the EU was waiting on behalf of France, Germany has also seen significant resistance to the idea of boycotting Russian gas.
Bosses and unions in Germany have joined forces to oppose a possible EU ban on Russian gas, saying it would grind industry to a halt.
Rainer Dulger, chairman of the BDA employer’s group, and Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the DGB trade union confederation, said in a joint statement on Monday: “A rapid gas embargo would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, a further de-industrialisation and the long-term loss of work positions in Germany.”
Measured by overall percentage of Russian gas exports, Germany is its biggest exporter in the EU at 16 percent according to the US Energy Information Agency.
Meanwhile, before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, a third of Germany’s oil imports, 45 percent of its coal purchases and 55 percent of gas imports came from Russia.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner argued earlier this month that a full-scale energy embargo would cause more pain to Germany than it would to Russia.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.