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The EU says it plans to ban Russian oil by the end of the year


The European Union is planning to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year. It's part of a package of new sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine. NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us from Berlin to talk about the announcement. Hey, Rob.


SHAPIRO: So tell us more about these latest sanctions from the EU.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. The biggest part you mentioned is a ban on Russian oil in the EU by the end of this year. Russia exports two-thirds of its oil to the EU, so this is pretty significant. The EU also plans to sanction individuals in Russia's military who were involved in alleged war crimes. And last, the EU plans to remove Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, from SWIFT, the global financial network. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says this sixth package of EU sanctions on Russia promises to further isolate Vladimir Putin.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN: Putin wanted to wipe out Ukraine from the map, and he will clearly not succeed - on the contrary. Ukraine has risen in bravery and in unity, and it is his own country, Russia, that Putin is sinking.

SHAPIRO: And yet oil prices rose by more than 3% after the announcement today. How difficult is it going to be for Europe to wean itself off Russian oil?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, this won't be easy. You know, a quarter of Europe's crude oil comes from Russia, and countries like Slovakia and Hungary depend on Russia for more than 75% of their oil. Both these countries will likely be granted exemptions from the EU for this embargo because of that. I spoke to European energy expert Andreas Goldthau about the EU's approach to doing away with Russian energy. And here's what he said.

ANDREAS GOLDTHAU: They go for the low-hanging fruits first. That was coal, and now it's oil. Gas is still something they're not touching. The second thing they're doing is they're not implementing an embargo right away, neither for coal nor for oil. But they do this as part of a gradual phaseout.

SCHMITZ: So, Ari, in essence, they're giving industry and the markets time to adapt because, you know, whenever you suddenly take oil off of global markets, it often means a sudden price hike everywhere. So gradual is better here.

SHAPIRO: Everywhere - is the rest of the world ready? I mean, how might this impact American consumers?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. Goldthau says the EU embargo will mean a higher price for oil, and that will likely contribute to inflation in the United States and elsewhere.

SHAPIRO: So the EU is phasing out Russian coal and now Russian oil. What about gas?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, that's not going to be easy to replace. You know, with gas, for the most part, you need pipelines to get from point A to point B. And Russian gas pipelines - a lot of them end in Europe. And that's why it's so difficult for the EU to impose an embargo on Russian gas. You know, current non-pipeline infrastructure, like liquefied natural gas terminals, will not be able to replace a loss of pipeline gas in the short term. And experts say an embargo would be too costly for the European economy at this stage. You know, in the meantime, though, the EU is ramping up renewable energy infrastructure and energy efficiency measures to lower its demand on gas overall. But there is a danger that Goldthau mentioned that Russians don't give the Europeans the timeframe to gradually cut this energy off, that Vladimir Putin goes ahead and cuts it off sooner than the Europeans were planning on. And that could cause a severe energy crisis.

SHAPIRO: I mean, how quickly could clean energy get ramped up to make up for this?

SCHMITZ: This, Ari, will take a long time, but we have many countries in Europe, including Germany, that is putting it on a fast track. But again, in Germany, a fast track means it could be maybe a year or two or maybe three. So we're looking in many months rather than weeks.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Rob Schmitz in Berlin. Thanks a lot.

SCHMITZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JINSANG'S "LEARNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.