How Eastern Europe's dependence on Russian oil continues

2023-12-05 14:17:33, Blog CNA

How Eastern Europe's dependence on Russian oil continues

Michal Majzner brought a can of gasoline to the Ministry of Industry in Prague. The activist is not afraid of running out of gas. He protests that the Czech Republic remains dependent on oil supplies from Russia.

Majzner pours red ink from his can onto the banner.

He says: "Russian oil is equal to Ukrainian blood." This he explains on television: "Now we are paying Russia for oil more than the average of the last few years. And Russia, of course, is using this money to buy military technology and pay soldiers - in its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine."

The Czech Republic is actually currently importing more oil through the Russian Druzhba pipeline than before the war, the highest level since 2012. The pipeline is unaffected by Russian sanctions. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary benefit from this exemption. Poland and Germany, which are also linked to Druzhban, rejected this.

There is no easy way out

Together with the organization "No Russian Oil", Majzner is collecting signatures for a petition addressed to Czech politicians. It aims to encourage private pipeline operators to buy oil elsewhere. The government in Prague actually considers itself a strong spokesperson for Ukraine's interests in the EU. However, giving up Russian oil is not that simple, says Industry Minister Józef Sikela. First, the pipeline network to Italy must be expanded.

How Eastern Europe's dependence on Russian oil continues

"We are currently installing more powerful turbines and stronger engines. Once this project is completed, it will be possible to stop all supplies from Russia through the Druzhba oil pipeline." But that will take time: it probably won't happen before 2025. And it costs money. On the contrary, according to energy experts, Russian oil is now simply much cheaper than others.

Dependence on Russia

The Czech Republic is also indirectly dependent on Russian oil. The Czech Republic does not produce enough fuel itself, but imports a significant part of it from Slovakia. The neighboring country's only oil refinery processes mainly Russian oil and supplies about a fifth of the Czech Republic's needs. In some regions, it provides even half of the needs. But from today this must end. After that, Slovnaft will no longer have the right to export those coming from Russia.

"If this exemption is not extended, it could destabilize the supply of oil products and fuel," warns Slovak parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini. "Not only in our country and in the Czech Republic, but in the whole region."

How Eastern Europe's dependence on Russian oil continues

Oil supply, despite sanctions

Fuel prices may also rise. Therefore, the Czech government supports Slovakia's request to extend the exemptions. Hungary is also in favor of this. This is due to the fact that Slovnaft is owned by the Hungarian oil company MOL. According to them, the switch to processing non-Russian oil is costly and will take at least until 2025. Currently, the refinery can process only about 30 percent oil from another source - too little for the Czech Republic.

"We will, of course, be fully ready to work from December 5, regardless of the sanctions," assures Slovnaft representative Anton Molnar. "We will continue to try to supply oil to the Czech market. It remains to be seen how successful we will be."

Regardless of what Brussels decides, one thing is certain: giving up Russian oil will not be easy for Slovakia and the Czech Republic./ DW

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