No exemption for Western Balkans because of Serbia

by Cristian Florescu

The Western Balkans will not be exempt from the European Union’s (EU) new package of sanctions against Russia due to Belgrade’s position towards official Moscow, reports Radio Free Europe (RFE).

“Serbia is not imposing sanctions on Russia, therefore, it should not profit from a derogation. Other member states have agreed with this position,” said a diplomatic source who participated in the talks on the new package of sanctions, RFE reports.

In the first draft proposal for a new package of sanctions, Western Balkan countries were to be exempt from the limitations on the import of Russian crude oil in order to protect the region’s energy stability.

According to the preliminary idea, the exemption would enable the transit of Russian crude oil through the oil pipelines in Croatia, on condition that such transit remains within the limits of the average levels of transit from the previous years in order to avoid circumvention of sanctions.

However, diplomatic sources say that, following a debate at the level of EU member states’ ambassadors, the derogation provision was removed due to Serbia’s failure to align with EU sanctions against Russia, which are a response to Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

Radio Free Europe had access to the latest document, finalized on October 4, in which there is no mention of any exemption for the region.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that, following an in-depth analysis, European experts arrived at a conclusion that oil imports are sufficiently diversified, therefore that there is no need for a derogation because „it is no longer necessary to buy Russian oil“.

Serbia was earlier exempt from the sanctions because the European Commission had found a solution to enable oil imports into Serbia via the JANAF oil pipeline system.

EU ambassadors reached a draft agreement on October 4 on the eighth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes a price cap on Russia’s oil sales.

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