Saudi Arabia could be selling the EU Russian oil products at a major markup, effectively undermining the bloc’s sanctions, an MEP has suggested.
Marc Botenga, a left-wing Belgian politician, has asked the European Commission whether or not it would be able to tell if Saudi Arabia was selling the continent diesel that originated in Russia. The Union replied even if Saudi was selling European nations diesel made out of Russian crude, that wouldn’t be against the sanctions regime anyway.
The EU has implemented a ban on Russian oil and oil product imports, a move that has resulted in the cost of petrol and diesel spiking across the bloc, hurting consumers.
By contrast, Saudi Arabia has reportedly taken to buying up a large amount of Russian diesel that has been left on the open market, while also, in turn, selling more of its own diesel to the European Union at a sizable profit.
In a written question to senior Eurocrats, Botenga has raised the possibility that some of this diesel being sent West could actually have originated in Russia all along, in part nullifying the spirit of anti-Russia sanctions while costing Europeans more money.
“What proof does the Commission have that the diesel imported into the EU from Saudi Arabia is not in fact repackaged Russian oil?” the MEP asked, going on to ask if officials were “aware of a difference between the (average) price paid by Saudi Arabia for discounted diesel imports from Russia and the price of EU imports from Saudi Arabia”.
In response, EU Commissioner Kadri Simson failed to answer whether or not the bloc would actually be able to tell if this is occurring, only saying that there was indeed a ban on re-exporting Russian diesel to Europe from a third-party country.
“The EU sanctions prohibit in general the import in the EU of Russian crude oil and Russian refined oil products which are exported directly from Russia or which originate in Russia,” she wrote.
“Refined oil products produced from Russian crude oil in a third country are not subject to the sanctions,” the official added.
It is far from the first time politicians have feared that EU fuel rules may have been circumvented or ignored by countries outside the bloc, with a report back in April indicating that Chinese so-called “green” biodiesel being sent Westward was likely fake.