Monday’s ministerial meeting in Brussels comes after Russia cut off gas supplies to European Union members Bulgaria and Poland and warned that other so-called “unfriendly” nations risked the same fate if they didn’t pay in rubles. Most EU contracts with Russian supplier Gazprom are in euros and dollars.
A number of European companies face gas payment deadlines to Russia this month. Some are reportedly looking for workarounds. European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson ruled out any conversion to rubles as violating EU sanctions, even as she called for joint action.
"The decision by Gazprom to suspend gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria marks another turning point in the current crisis, Simson said. "It is an unjustified breach of existing contracts and a warning that any member states could be next. It is also an attempt to divide the EU, to which we respond by reinforcing our unity and solidarity."
The EU is preparing a possible sixth set of sanctions against Moscow in the near future and has called for becoming energy independent from Russian by 2030. Last month, the 27-member bloc approved a coal embargo. This latest sanctions package may include oil.
Poland’s climate and environment minister, Anna Moskwa, says her country wants a total Russia energy ban.
"We will support full sanctions on all fossil fuels," Moskwa said. "We already have coal. Now it’s time for oil, and second step is for gas. The best option is to take them altogether."
Not all EU member states agree. Poland has been weaning itself off Russian supplies for years. Nearby Hungary is highly dependent on Russian energy and says it will oppose oil sanctions.
Still there appears to be progress. Once-hesitant Germany now says it will back immediate oil sanctions.
Transportation and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan of Ireland said sanctions alone are not enough.
"An oil embargo would be an example of further raising of the sanctions bar," Ryan said. "We’ll have to see. One of the things that we need to do, if we do it, is we need to also push efficiency measures at the same time. Because what that would do is protect our customers, our householders as well."
EU energy sanctions aim to deprive Russia of billions of dollars in revenue it can use to pay for its war in Ukraine, but they could also translate into higher prices for European consumers. Meanwhile, Moscow may find other customers for its supplies.