German ministers say Germany drops opposition to Russian oil embargo

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany would be ready to support an immediate European Union ban on Russian oil imports, two senior ministers in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government said on Monday, and that Europe’s largest economy could face price shortages and higher prices.

The comments by Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Economy Minister Robert Habeck are the latest sign that Schultz has shifted from his cautious approach to Russia and is ready to support sanctions against Moscow even if they have economic costs at home.

Speaking in Brussels, Greens ecologist Habeck said Germany would support the EU ban, regardless of whether the halt was immediate or by the end of the year.

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“Germany is not against an oil embargo on Russia. Of course this is a heavy burden, but we will be ready to do it,” Habeck told reporters before talks with his European Union colleagues.

Germany reduced the share of Russian oil to 12% from 35% prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

It is working to find alternative fuel supplies, more urgently for Russian oil that comes via a pipeline to a refinery in Schwedt operated by Russia’s state corporation Rosneft.

Lindner of the pro-business Liberal Democrats told German radio that the German economy could tolerate an immediate ban.

“With coal and oil, it is possible to abandon Russian imports now,” Lindner told WELT. “Fuel prices cannot be ruled out.”

Habeck had said earlier in Berlin that the main challenge was to find alternative oil shipments to Schweidt, which supplies eastern German regions as well as the Berlin metropolitan area.

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Habeck said these regions could face supply shortages in the event of an EU embargo if Germany cannot secure alternative oil imports by the end of the year.

“We still don’t have a solution for the Schwedt refinery,” Habek said. “We cannot guarantee that supplies will continue. There will certainly be price hikes and there will be some outages. But that does not mean that we will slip into an oil crisis.”

Two European Union diplomats said at the weekend that the bloc was leaning toward imposing an embargo on Russian oil by the end of the year as part of a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Read more

Habeck said that a ban in a few months would give Germany time to organize tankers carrying oil to ports in the north of the country and which would flow through pipelines to Schwedt.

“It would be beneficial to have weeks or months to do all the technical preparations,” he said. “We have to find ships that take oil from west to east, we have to prepare the ports, we have to prepare the pipelines. So time is good but I think other countries have bigger problems.”

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Written by Joseph Nasr. Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Louise Heavens and Barbara Lewis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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