Talks aiming at agreeing an EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports have gone into a sixth day.
Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are resisting approval and demanding special dispensations to accommodate domestic needs.
The main point of contention remains the ambitious timeline envisioned by the European Commission: a phase-out of all Russian crude in six months and all refined oil products by the end of the year.
Due to their entrenched dependency on Russian oil, the four countries argue they cannot make the switch to other providers in such a short period of time, without imperilling their national economies.
An initial compromise reached last week showed that Hungary and Slovakia could be allowed to complete the phase-out by the end of 2024, two years later than what Brussels had proposed, diplomatic sources with knowledge of the situation told Euronews.
The Czech Republic could also benefit from a protracted exemption, until June 2024, while waiting to be connected to the Transalpine Pipeline, which today links Italy, Austria and Germany.
Now, Bulgaria is demanding a similar dispensation in exchange for its green light.
“Our position is very clear. If there be a derogation for some of the countries, we want to get a derogation too,” Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told a national broadcaster.
“If not, we will not support the sanctions. But I do not expect to get to that, based on the talks at the moment.”
Unlike Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which are all landlocked and get their oil supplies directly from the Druzhba pipeline, Bulgaria has access to the Black Sea, opening up an easier route for alternative suppliers to bring in crude barrels to fill the gap left by Russia.