By Euronews Brussels bureau The EU’s ironclad unity appears to have found its litmus test: a ban on...
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Ukraine’s stern message to the EU: It's time to turn 'solidarity into action'

By Euronews Brussels bureau

The EU’s ironclad unity appears to have found its litmus test: a ban on Russian oil imports.

After more than a week of intense negotiations, member states have failed to reach an agreement on a proposed oil embargo. The main point of contention remains the ambitious timeline envisioned by the European Commission: a phase-out of all Russian crude oil in six months and all refined oil products by the end of the year.

Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are demanding tailored exemptions to adapt their energy systems and secure alternative providers. Since EU sanctions require the unanimous approval of all 27 states, a single “no” can block collective action – as it clearly is the case now.

Ukraine, which continues to be shelled and bombed by Russian forces, is not hiding its frustration with the bloc.

“We think this [EU] solidarity, which is declared, should be converted into action. So far, the European Union has been quite united on sanctions. We hope this crisis on the oil embargo will be overcome,” Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told our colleague Efi Koutsokosta.

“We expect decision-makers in Hungary, in other countries, [to be] human, that they understand what's going on in Ukraine. They themselves could see the level of atrocities around Kyiv and other cities. So in order to stop Russia, I think, EU member states should also be ready for certain sacrifices, including economic sacrifices.”

Asked if he was disappointed by the stalled discussions, Chentsov replied “yes, we are because it's about our common fight against dictatorship, against the aggressor.”

“What we would like to avoid is blocking this decision for any other, including political, reasons. This is very important for us,” he noted.

“The message is very clear: there will be no business as usual with Russia. They need to move fast and to also be very practical and precise [about] what kind of technical solution they need to solve the issue of alternative supplies, and move forward with this package.”

Chentsov upped the ante and suggested the EU's next step should be a gas embargo, an idea that some countries have already ruled out, fearing an inevitable recession.

The pressure is on to cripple the Kremlin's ability to finance the invasion: since the conflict broke out, the 27 member states have spent over €24 billion on oil and €34 billion on gas coming from Russia, according to a tracking tool set up by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), an independent research organisation.

“What is not less important is to strip Russia of cash because we've heard that this oil embargo, if introduced, will enter into force in a few months, maybe closer to the end of the year, which means that Russia, for this period, will continue receiving huge money from the EU,” Chentsov explained.

EU sanctions “are effective,” he stressed. “Each package of sanctions adds pressure, but it's not enough.”

Read the full interview with Ambassador Chentsov.

GO DEEPER If you want to understand why Eastern countries are so concerned about the oil embargo, Jorge Liboreiro brings you the key insights. And if you want to dive deeper into the behind-the-scenes negotiations, check out this story by Shona Murray.

 
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?

THE LATEST It’s been 11 weeks since Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine. The war continues to alter the continent’s geopolitics: “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” said President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin in a joint statement. The decision will be formalised in the coming days, kicking off the accession process to join the alliance. The big news follows a UK pledge to defend both Finland and Sweden if either country comes under attack. Meanwhile in Ukraine, authorities stopped the flow of Russian natural gas through one key hub that feeds Europe, alleging interference from “occupying forces”.  And observers keep trying to guess Vladimir Putin’s next step after a much-anticipated military parade in Moscow to commemorate Victory Day offered very little clue. Follow our live blog for the latest developments.

ENDGAME Since February 24, the burning question on everybody’s mind has been: how will the Ukraine war end? In an in-depth analysis for Euronews, security analyst Michael Horowitz examines five possible scenarios that could bring the conflict to an end.

HEFTY BILL Ukraine faces a colossal task to rebuild the country: a new report by the Kyiv School of Economics reveals damage caused by the war has reached $600 billion, a figure that could further balloon as the invasion drags on. Brussels is already preparing a recovery package, but it’s clear the EU can’t foot the bill on its own. Our video explainer examines Ukraine’s expensive reconstruction.

SEIZE & FREEZE In recent weeks, EU and US officials have begun floating an innovative idea to help rebuild Ukraine: confiscate Russia’s frozen assets and redirect the profits towards Kyiv. But doing so is likely to be a legal minefield that could take years.

CHILD ABUSE The European Commission has unveiled ambitious plans to clamp down on online child abuse, a crime that remains pervasive: 85 million indecent pictures and videos were registered in 2021. But the proposal immediately raised concerns from privacy activists, who warn the Commission’s proposal to oblige companies to monitor encrypted messages will lead to “mass surveillance.” Alice Tidey looks closer at the digital clash between safety and privacy.

BREXIT Tensions between the EU and the UK are growing regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol. London claims the system is causing “unacceptable” trade disruption, but Brussels is fighting back. “There was no engagement, no action from the UK side,” European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told Euronews, adding the bloc is “seriously concerned that as it seems, the UK Government is embarking again on the unilateral path.”

CITIZEN-DRIVEN The Conference on the Future of Europe has come to an end. In an op-ed for Euronews, Professor Alberto Alemanno examines the lessons learned from the yearlong exercise. “The new logic underpinning the Conference, as a citizen-driven, bottom-up process, may put governments and institutions in an unprecedented bind,” Alemanno writes.

RED LINE Time is running out to save the planet: average global temperatures have a 50:50 chance of temporarily reaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels during at least one of the next five years, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said. The stark warning puts the planet on the brink of irreversible global warming, Euronews Green reports.

SONG CONTEST It’s Eurovision week: this year’s song contest is taking place in Turin, with the grand finale scheduled for Saturday, 14 May. To mark the occasion, Euronews Travel brings you some suggestions for what to do in and around Turin.  Also, did you know the Soviet Union used to host a rival song contest? It was called Intervision. David Mac Dougall has the full story.
 
 
 
IT'S IN THE NUMBERS

An international conference in Brussels raised close to €6.4 billion in humanitarian support for Syria and neighbouring countries. The pledge was organised by the EU, which was the main donor: €3.1 billion came from the European Commission and €1.7 billion from member states. A total of 55 countries participated in the annual conference.

“Even if Syria is not anymore on the front pages, on the headlines of the media around the world, even if we talk less about Syria, we are very much aware that 90% of Syrians living in Syria live in poverty,” said Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
 
EDITOR'S CHOICE

Unpacking Macron’s big pitch for a ‘European political community’

 
 
Fresh off the back of a resounding election victory, President Emmanuel Macron of France has pitched one the biggest changes to the structure of the European Union in decades. Speaking in Strasbourg on Europe Day, Macron admitted a hard truth: Ukraine’s bid to join the EU will probably take “decades” to conclude, long after the war has concluded and ravaged the country. Then, in a completely unexpected move, the president laid out his vision of a broader community of European democracies that would allow for deeper cooperation between the 27-member bloc and non-EU countries, including Ukraine and even a post-Brexit Britain. “The EU, given the level of its integration and ambition, cannot, in the short-term, be the only means of structuring the European continent,” he said. The speech made international headlines but exact details remain scant. Christopher Pitchers breaks down Macron’s new grand idea while Gresa Kraja explores how the Western Balkans feel about it.
 
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North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un was seen wearing a face mask for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he declared a state emergency and ordered lockdown measures over the country's first reported cases of the virus.
 
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