Belgrade daily Danas said on Friday that the sanctions imposed by the European Union against majority Russian-owned companies are punishing Serbia while sparing the EU and Russia.
The 4th package of EU sanctions covers 12 Russian energy companies including Gazprom Neft and companies in which they have more than 51 percent of shares. That includes the Serbian Oil Industry (NIS), the largest oil company in the country, in which Gazprom Neft holds a 56 percent stake.
President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier that the EU sanctions meant that the bloc has left open the possibility of importing of exporting from Russia – but at the same time prevented third countries such as Serbia from importing oil if their companies and refineries are majority-owned by Russia. Danas said that the EU sanctions could therefore prevent NIS from importing oil into Serbia – but would still allow the Hungarian MOL and Austrian OMV to do so.
Danas quoted economist Goran Radosavljevic who said the EU banning Serbia from importing oil from Russia, while allowing EU member states to do so, does not make any sense. “NIS hasn’t been importing oil directly from Russia for years. It merely calls for bids via tenders held twice a year, to which companies registered in other countries respond. The type of oil it gets is Ural oil, mainly originating from Russia or Kazakhstan, because the NIS refinery is tuned to process that oil – which is also imported in the entire region,” he said.
Radosavljevic said that Serbia could bypass these sanctions through companies not majority-owned by Russia, either by importing oil through Montenegro – provided that their government and the EU allow it – or through a Serbian-owned company which could import oil into Serbia and then sell it to NIS, with the EU turning a blind eye.
He said that the point of the EU’s decision is to force Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia, and recalled the 2014 sanctions on the Russian-owned lender Sberbank imposed for its branches “outside of the EU” – which in reality only meant in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Serbia.