No sanctions on Russian gas planned at the moment, EU says

Paschal Donohoe warns of slowdown in economic growth due to war in Ukraine

The European Union is not currently planning to impose sanctions on Russian gas, EU commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni has said, amid warnings that the war in Ukraine would slow economic growth this year.

Mr Gentiloni spoke alongside Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe after he chaired a meeting of euro zone finance ministers to discuss the economic impact of the war.

“We are not taking, now, measures on a gas embargo, but in the future I think this is not off the table, and is connected to the evolution of the war,” Mr Gentiloni told the media.

“I think we all know that sanctions have an impact for the European economy. That if we want to respond to this military action with economic tools, we have to face this cost. If sanctions are extended to a gas embargo, of course, this impact will increase,” the former Italian prime minister said.

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Finance ministers of the 27 member states will discuss what fresh sanctions to impose when they meet on Tuesday, amid growing calls for harder action driven by widespread horror at evidence of apparent atrocities against civilians as Russian troops withdrew from areas near the capital, Kyiv. New measures are set to come into force on Thursday, in co-ordination with action by other major economies.

“The backdrop for our meeting today was the horrifying images of the attacks committed by the Russian army against civilians in Ukraine,” Mr Donohoe said.

“We are all appalled. And we stand ready to step up sanctions and support for the people of Ukraine.”

Economic slowdown

Finance ministers had acknowledged that “our economic growth will slow down this year”, Mr Donohoe said, pointing to rising energy and food prices, and disruptions to supply chains.

Ireland would back measures to reduce gas imports to the EU from Russia, Mr Donohoe said, which have ranged in value between €200 million and €800 million daily since the start of the year.

"The Irish Government have made clear that we do support stronger actions being taken regarding the export of gas and other forms of energy from Russia," Mr Donohoe said.

Intense discussions are taking place between member states on how to ramp up sanctions in a way that hurts Russia more than the EU, and avoids the risk of a public backlash that could cause political instability in the bloc.

France threw its weight behind a ban on oil and coal on Monday, while German's foreign minister Annalena Baerbock vowed to "tighten the existing sanctions".

An agreement between EU countries on how to transpose an OECD agreement for a minimum 15 per cent corporation tax for multinational companies with revenue over €750 million into EU law is expected to be delayed this week.

Objections by Estonia related to the costs of implementation due to the country's small size, and by Poland, which is seeking assurances on the international application of the deal, prevented a finalisation of the agreement that had been planned for this week.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times