EU Parliament passes symbolic vote to ban Russia energy imports

A coal train passing through Yekaterinburg, Russia, pictured on Feb 15, 2020. PHOTO: NYTIMES

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) - The European Parliament on Thursday (April 7) passed a symbolic vote demanding a total ban on all Russian energy imports into the EU, as member states closed in on narrower sanctions against Russian coal.

MEPs voted 513 in favour, with 22 against and 19 abstentions, of an "immediate" ban on Russian coal, gas and oil, as well as nuclear fuel.

Although the motion was non-binding, the parliament's speaker, Roberta Metsola, called it a "very important moment" that sent the "strongest messages" to Ukraine on the degree of EU support.

The vote was separate from ongoing discussions on Thursday between ambassadors of the 27 EU countries on adopting a European Commission proposal to sanction Russian coal, among other trade measures.

Several EU states wanted to go further by also banning Russian oil, but others whose economies are highly dependent on Russia energy supplies - Germany among them - resisted.

In 2021, Russia supplied 45 per cent of the EU's coal imports, 25 per cent of its oil imports and around 45 per cent of its gas imports.

Hydrocarbons are Russia's most important exports, and the EU is its biggest customer for them.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday told the European Parliament that EU purchases of Russian fossil fuels have filled Moscow's coffers by €35 billion (S$52 billion) since the Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.

That amount eclipsed the one billion euros the EU has set aside for arms deliveries to Ukraine, he said.

The European Parliament's resolution also demanded stepped-up weapons deliveries to Ukraine, something Kyiv has been repeatedly calling for from Europe.

Metsola late last week became the first head of an EU institution to visit Ukraine since the war started.

Borrell and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen were to follow up with their own visit to Kyiv on Friday.

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