The European Commission has formally drafted a long-awaited ban on Russian crude oil imports, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it circulated the details to EU member states on Tuesday.
The proposed text would require most EU member states to phase out Russian crude imports within six months and all Russian refined products within the year, officials told the paper.
All 27 EU member states must agree to the plan in order for it to be enacted.
In addition to a ban on Russian oil, the sixth round of sanctions will also remove additional Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system and list Russian “disinformation actors,” according to EC foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell.
The possibility of an outright ban on Russian oil reflects significant efforts by EU member states and oil refiners to find alternate sources of crude.
It may also accelerate a trend of “self-sanctioning” by Western oil traders, who have already begun limiting their exposure to Russian crude because of the perceived risks.
Assuming that Russia can find alternate markets to absorb production, tanker owners could be up for a windfall with the reshuffling of the oil trade.
EU freezes Russian oligarchs’ assets worth over 10 billion Euro (Rs82K crore )
In retaliation to the Russian military offensive against Ukraine, the European Union has blocked the assets of Russian oligarchs worth nearly €10 billion (over Rs 82K crore) as part of sanctions, TASS reported.
Further, another set of frozen assets was reported in the month of April.
Earlier in April, the European Union had frozen about €30 billion (Rs 2,48,418 crore) in assets of Russian and Belarusian oligarchs and businesses.
Assets worth €29.5 billion have been frozen, and transactions worth €196 billion have been banned, according to the EU statement.
Josep Borrell has also recommended taking frozen Russian foreign exchange assets to reconstruct Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the European Union has approved a 500 million euro military aid tranche for Ukraine.
Egypt rakes in $15m daily from Suez canal vessel traffic
Egypt is making bountiful harvests of revenue from its man-made Suez canal with daily earnings of $15millon from the maritime traffic.
Suez Canal stretches from Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to the city of Suez on the northeastern shores of the Gulf of Suez, separating Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula.
Safwat explained that up to one billion tons of maritime cargo passed through the canal every year and that up to 20,000 ships had passed through the canal in the first quarter of 2022, carrying goods to various countries around the globe.
He said that the canal, the longest man-made in the world, had recorded increased revenue, generating about $5.61 billion in 2020, due to the determination and doggedness of Egyptians.
Safwat announced that the company made about $6.3 billion from its activities last year, saying that the construction of the canal 152 years ago, demonstrated the willpower and can-do spirit of the citizens of the Arab nation.
Tracing the history of the canal, the spokesman said it took the labour of about one million Egyptians and 120,000 deaths to put the canal in place in 1859.
Safwat noted that the number of ships using the canal daily had also increased from 45 per day in 2015 to 60 per day at present, describing the route as one of the safest in the world.
In March 2021, a huge container ship, known as Ever Given, belonging to Evergreen Shipping Lines, got wedged and blocked the Suez Canal, disrupting global maritime trade for weeks.
However, the ship, which the Egyptian Government impounded, was later released after agreeing to a deal on compensation with the government.
The 193-km Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea at the canal’s northern end to the Red Sea in the south and it provides the shortest link between Asia and Europe.
The authorities of the SCA took the visiting journalists on a boat cruise on the old and new canals built by the government.
The journalists noticed the intense maritime activity taking place round the hour on the canal, helping to boost the prosperity of the North African country.
Egypt, which is currently one of Africa’s biggest economies, has embarked on various developmental projects, to sustain its position as a pacesetter in both the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa.
The rich North African country has a population of about 106 million people, making it the third-largest country in Africa.
Competing economic interests of Europe militarise Gulf maritime waters
Cinzia Bianco, Matteo Moretti
In February 2022, the Council of the European Union (E.U.) gathered in Brussels to discuss the extension of the Coordinated Maritime Presence (CMP) concept to the North-Western Indian Ocean.
EMASOH, a French initiative, was launched in January 2020 to promote regional de-escalation in the Gulf and ensure freedom of navigation in the seas around the Strait of Hormuz.
The Council’s decision to officially embrace EMASOH, which operates in parallel to the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), is a small step in the direction of Europeans acknowledging that they won’t always be able to rely on the United States to defend their interests, even in the Gulf, long perceived in Europe as an “American lake.”
Whither a European security role in the Gulf?
This is not to say that the U.S. is leaving the Gulf or the Middle East more broadly.
Conversely, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is seeking to strengthen its energy ties with Middle Eastern suppliers to overcome its dependence on Russian oil and gas — an effort that is only likely to ramp up if the E.U. moves to ban Russian oil imports.
While North Africa, Iran, and the eastern Mediterranean are feasible long-term options, current energy infrastructures in these places is either derelict or non-existent, precluding a quick fix for Europe’s energy crisis.
This maritime space is already of strategic importance for Europe economically.
Finally, a stronger role for Europe as a security provider in the Gulf has a geopolitical rationale, too.
The E.U.’s decision to become strategically more involved in the maritime security of the North-Western Indian Ocean will have several future implications.
The CMP will enable the E.U. to share intelligence and operationalize coordination in the North-Western Indian Ocean, effectively establishing links between EMASOH and Operation Atalanta, an E.U. mission to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.
The E.U.’s embrace of EMASOH is the ultimate green light for a new generation of ad hoc, flexible missions that can be deployed in sensitive areas for E.U. interests, offsetting the lengthy decision-making process of the E.U.’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP).
For now, Gulf countries are not in a position to provide maritime security around the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea on their own.
Finally, the European reference to the North-Western Indian Ocean indicates they might soon go beyond the existing operational areas of Atalanta and EMASOH.
Dr. Cinzia Bianco is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, where she works on political, security, and economic developments in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region and relations with Europe. She is also a non-resident scholar with MEI’s Defense and Security Program and a senior analyst at Gulf State Analytics.
Matteo Moretti is a Junior Member at the International Affairs Institute (IAI) in Rome. His research interests include the EU’s foreign relations, especially with the Gulf.
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