The EU has been considering a ban on Russian oil for weeks as countries look to crack down on Russia in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The issue has divided member states and highlighted the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy sources.
It has taken weeks for EU countries to agree on the details of the measure, partly due to the heavy reliance of some states on Russian imports, including Germany and Hungary.
Intensive talks are set to continue over the weekend before the European Commission puts a finalised proposal on paper for EU ambassadors to approve, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The ambassadors are set to meet on Wednesday (May 4) and are expected to give their final approval by the end of next week, according to several EU officials and diplomats involved in the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
If the plan is adopted, the oil embargo will be the biggest and most important new step in the EU’s sixth package of sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
The EU’s 27 member states have to agree unanimously for a ban to come into effect.
However, unless there is any last-minute opposition to the deal, the process should be completed without requiring a meeting of all EU leaders.
The embargo is likely to affect Russian oil transported by tankers quicker than oil coming by a pipeline, which could take months to be impacted.
In both cases, it is thought that the bloc will allow its members to wind down existing contracts with Russian oil companies rather than cut off imports immediately.
This was the case for the EU’s coal ban, which was given four months to be fully implemented.
Some countries have been reluctant to introduce an outright ban on Russian oil and gas, attracting criticism for other EU members.
Germany had previously been a major opponent to the measure, with the country reluctant to bring in a ban due to its heavy reliance on oil imports from Russia.
At the time of the Ukraine invasion, the country imported around a third of its oil from the country.
However, Germany’s energy minister Robert Habeck said this week that Germany an oil embargo was now “manageable” for the country after it cut its imports to just 12 percent in recent weeks.
The country has been scrambling to find alternative sources of fuel.
Speaking to the media during a visit to Poland on Tuesday, he said: “The problem that seemed very large for Germany only a few weeks ago has become much smaller.”
He added: “Germany has come very, very close to independence from Russian oil imports.”
Russia remains Europe’s biggest oil supplier, providing around a quarter of the bloc’s oil each year, according to data from 2020.
This accounts for roughly half of Russia’s total exports, with the EU buying 3 million barrels of oil from Russia daily.
The bloc has been widely criticized for its reliance on Russian imports and accused of helping fund Moscow’s war in Ukraine, now in its 10th week.
Officials said the bloc would look to make up for the shortfall caused by the oil embargo by increasing imports from other sources such as Persian Gulf countries, Nigeria and Kazakhstan.
The ban is likely to put increased pressure on global oil prices and drive up already sky-energy prices around the world.
Some leaders have suggested placing tariffs or a price cap on Russia’s oil instead of an outright embargo to try to lessen the impact on the global oil supply.
However, it is thought that European leaders still prefer a ban on oil rather than restrictions.
Depriving Russia of oil revenues will increase economic pressure on Moscow, with the Russian economy buckling under Western sanctions.
Other measures to be included in the EU’s sixth round of sanctions are measures against Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, and additional measures against high-profile Russians, according to officials.