European Commission ditches plan to ban EU-state flags from hauling Russian oil

The European Commission’s plan to prohibit Russian crude oil from being transported aboard EU-flagged ships has been withdrawn. It was to be included in the EU’s most recent sanctions package, which aimed to wean the EU from Russian energy imports.

Malta, together with Greece and Cyprus, has been a vocal opponent of the proposal. The commission devised the current set of sanctions to attack Russia’s ability to continue its invasion of Ukraine. During his presentation to the Maltese parliament on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned Malta’s opposition to a transit ban on Russian oil.

President Zelensky urged Europe to accept the Russian oil ban during his address to the Maltese parliament, warning that profits from its transportation came at a higher cost, linking it to pressures created by growing food prices and migration. “If you don’t stop the food crisis and the migrant issue, every euro and dollar you earn will be accompanied by significant losses,” he stated.

According to industry experts, the prohibition might have a significant impact on Malta’s maritime industry, especially if vessels are unable to access certain seaports. The planned shipping prohibition would have made it more difficult for businesses to get past the EU’s Russian oil ban. Last week, Malta’s Transport Minister, Dr Aaron Farrugia, stated that the country was “seeking a compromise” on the matter.

According to sources involved with the talks, the proposal would not be included in the next round of sanctions because negotiations had only gone so far. Companies would have found it more difficult to get around the EU’s prohibition on Russian oil by moving crude oil to other nations across the world if the proposed shipping restriction had been implemented.

“Malta has its own interests to safeguard,” Dr Farrugia stated at the time, “but we want to balance that with satisfying our sanctions duties.”

G7 has not reached a similar accord.

Malta, according to the sources, maintained that the shipping restriction was only reasonable if the EU’s international partners, at least those in the G7, agreed. Because the G7 allies have not reached a similar deal, EU businesses will be affected, and the business will transfer to like-minded non-EU corporations ready to carry it, they claim.

Finally, Malta, with the support of Cyprus, argued that without international collaboration, the sanctions would affect EU operators rather than Russia.

All options remain available

Sanctions are still being debated, according to a Foreign Ministry official. “All of the actions proposed in the sixth package require unanimous approval, which has yet to be achieved. All proposals remain open, and a solution must be reached before the sixth package can be approved,” he stated.

Malta, according to Minister Farrugia, will comply with all international and European penalties.