Belgium's phasing-out of Russian oil must happen gradually, said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Wednesday in response to the 6th package of sanctions proposed by the European Commission.
"The last thing we want is to punish our own citizens for a war that nobody asked for," said De Croo on Radio 1, although he didn't give details about financial compensation for Belgium if energy prices continue rising as a result of the sanctions.
The Prime Minister did call for European solidarity, stressing that "if the sanctions are taken collectively, we also have to look at how collective compensation can be allocated." He underlined the need for European unity in negotiations to ensure that Member States share an equal burden.
Sixth package of sanctions
The EU wants to end energy imports from Russia within six months and gasoline in nine. Hungary and Slovakia will be exempt from the proposal as both are completely dependent on Russian energy.
Finally, we now propose a ban on Russian oil.Let's be clear: it will not be easy. But we simply have to work on it. We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion. To maximise pressure on Russia, while minimizing the impact on our economies pic.twitter.com/fH2wuKN5t2 — Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 4, 2022
Brussels will also target Russia's financial sector by excluding one of Russia's biggest banks, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payments system. In addition, war criminals in Bucha will be "listed" to be held accountable, and Russian state-owned broadcasters will be banned in the EU in an effort to limit Russian propaganda.
By cutting revenue to Russia from energy exports, it is hoped that this will be the most effective way of forcing Moscow to withdraw military forces from Ukraine.
However, it is feared that a ban on Russian energy export could make already soaring oil and gas prices even higher.