Malta is seeking a compromise with the EU on its proposal to ban the transportation of Russian oil on EU-flagged or controlled ships, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia confirmed to Times of Malta on Thursday.

The plans are part of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's effort to wean the bloc off dependence on Russian energy, as Moscow's war on Ukraine continues.

Malta is understood to have signalled its reservations during a meeting between EU member states on the sanctions package on Wednesday. 

Sources who spoke to Times of Malta said that the ban on transportation of Russian oil could have a large impact on the shipping industry. Malta has a large maritime register and its operators would be affected if they were unable to reach certain ports. 

Aaron Farrugia says Malta wants to balance its interests with its sanctions obligations as an EU member state. Video: Jessica Arena

When asked on Thursday why Malta was opposing the proposal, Farrugia said that technical discussions about the matter were ongoing.

“Malta has its own interests to protect but we want to balance that with meeting our sanctions obligations,” he said.“When we have all the information in hand the government will make a decision as it always has.”

Farrugia was reluctant to elaborate further but said that Malta’s shipping industry is of “huge strategic importance” and that its flag has an “important difference” to that of other countries.

“We have to protect what we have and that’s why we are looking to find a compromise during these technical meetings,” he said.

According to Politico, Greece and Cyprus also raised concerns with the Commission about the proposal.

Von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Wednesday that it was seeking to phase out crude Russian oil in six months and refined products by the end of the year.

The Commission is also asking member states to deny Sherbank,Russia’s largest bank, access to the SWIFT global banking communication system.The plan requires the approval of all 27 member states in order to be adopted.

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