Why Putin hopes for “Lex Schwedt”.

Bernd Ziesemer
Why Putin hopes for “Lex Schwedt”.

Capital columnist Bernd Ziesemer

© Martin Kress

Even after the grueling EU decision, the debate over the oil embargo is by no means over. In Germany, the main focus is on the Druzhba . pipeline

An all-party coalition led by Prime Minister Dietmar Woike (SPD) – which has never existed in Brandenburg before. On the oil front, however, the six parliamentary groups are fighting together against the federal government – ​​with a few nuances. The reason the country’s politicians are like this: After the EU embargo on Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia can continue to use the southern route of the Druzhba pipeline to obtain Russian oil. Why isn’t there also an “exception” for the refinery at Schwedt, which is responsible for several thousand jobs?

Now one can already criticize the “Light of the Embargo”, which only EU countries can do after several nights of thorough negotiations. So far, it’s only covered tanker transportation – and only starting in 2023. An exception to resume pipeline operations significantly reduces the effect of sanctions. However, Poland and Germany have pledged not to buy any more oil via the northern route. This voluntary decision outside of the EU embargo hit Russia harder than the embargo itself: 66 percent of the oil flowing through the Druzhba pipeline recently went to Germany and Poland, only eleven percent to Hungary.

In the pipeline business, Vladimir Putin earns much higher margins than in the tanker route. And there aren’t enough supertankers to transport oil to India or China which has so far been pipelined to Poland and Germany. There is nothing better for a Russian dictator than a “Lex Schwedt” – and nothing worse for Germany’s reputation in Central and Eastern Europe.

The all-party coalition in Brandenburg seems unconcerned about the war in Ukraine and the impact of Western sanctions. It’s all about voters in Schwedt and the wider region, who you don’t want to be isolated from. That’s why state governments have been working for weeks on all sorts of horror scenarios – for example the collapse of Berlin’s new BER airport, which so far gets most of its aviation fuel from the refinery in Schwedt. The driving ban for Brandenburg drivers is also part of the arsenal of arguments. None of this will happen even in the worst case. Federal Secretary of the Economy Robert Habeck is working hard to develop other oil sources and transportation routes for refineries. At best, we must take into account the temporary reduction in processing capacity and difficulties for some companies processing petroleum products from Schwedt. Painful for sure, but nothing will kill the economy in Brandenburg and certainly not in Germany.

With “Lex Schwedt”, who has so far been vehemently rebuffed by Habeck, the entire Western sanctions package is about to slip again. Because almost every European country has special problems. The Greeks wanted to continue transporting Russian oil with their large tanker fleet, the Hungarians wanted to resell their cheap Russian oil without any restrictions and thus earn high profits, while the British wanted to insure the tanker cargoes. that. After high gasoline prices at their gas stations, even Americans suddenly warned of the EU embargo being too tight. Suddenly, Schwedt was about a tiny slice of world politics and not just about Brandenburg. However, this news has not yet circulated among state politicians.

Bernd Ziesemer

is a Capital columnist. The business journalist was editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt from 2002 to 2010. He then became managing director of the publishing division of the company Verlag Hoffmann und Campe until 2014. Ziesemer’s column appears regularly on Capital.de. Here you can follow him on Twitter follow.

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