ECONOMY

EU commissioner sees consensus on Iran oil ban

There is consensus among European Union states on the need for a ban on Iranian oil exports to the bloc, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked if there was such a consensus, Oettinger said: «Yes, I think so.» He declined to comment on when any ban might be implemented.

He added that he thought a ban should be extended more widely to include both the United States and Russia. The United States has banned oil imports from Iran since the Islamic revolution.

“I think an oil ban is an important instrument but we should integrate into this policy all other big countries: the US of course, Russia – the more the better,» he said.

“At the moment there should be a complete European Union team and bring this common policy offer to the other big countries,» he added.

Greece had earlier objected to an EU ban on Iranian oil imports as it obtains up to 30 percent of its fuel from Iran. Italy and Spain are other major importers of Iranian oil.

Another EU diplomat, who could not be named but with direct knowledge of the situation, explained the sensitive nature of seeking a ban for some EU states.

“I don’t see an immediate overall oil ban on Iranian crude because some of our member states, mainly the southern European ones, have too much commitment with Iranian crude,» the diplomat told Reuters, citing Italy, Greece and Spain.

“For them, it would be an immediate disruption of supplies and that’s not something we can handle right now. We have experienced the loss of Libyan crude, and then the Syrian, which wasn’t that big, but Iran is even bigger than Libya for Europe. …In the end, we might end up hurting ourselves more than hurting Iran.”

“I’m afraid it would be only a political gesture, but if Iran were to go on and sell to China, that wouldn’t mean a lot,» he said.

The diplomat did not completely rule out an oil ban, however, if there were an escalation of tensions with Iran, hostility toward more embassies or foreign nationals, for example, which he said would require a political response from the union.

Reuters reported recently that Greece was growing more reliant on Iranian because traders were pulling the plug on supplies and banks were refusing to provide financing for fear that Athens will default on its debt.

Greece, with no domestic production, relies on oil imports and in 2010 imported 46 percent of its crude from Russia and 16 percent from Iran. Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan provided 10 percent each, Libya 9 percent and Iraq 7 percent, according to data from the European Union.

Greece?s four refineries, belonging to Hellenic and Motor Oil, together can process around 400,000 barrels per day. That figure has fallen to around 330,000 bpd in recent months due to maintenances and upgrades.

[Reuters