Russia bans Moldova wine ahead of EU summit
11.09.13 @ 09:28
BRUSSELS - Russia has imposed an import ban on Moldovan wines and spirits citing health concerns, but critics say it is designed to stop the ex-Soviet republic’s EU aspirations.
The import ban, announced on Tuesday (10 September), starts Wednesday.
Russia's public health chief Gennady Onishchenko said Moldova had been informed on numerous occasions to improve the quality of its products but never did.
"The ban is a necessary step that we have undertaken reluctantly, but it is the only possible way of solving the present situation," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
A high-ranking Moldovan official, who asked not to be named, told this website that Russia has a history of imposing bans to exercise political pressure on Moldova’s “sovereign choices.”
He noted that the Moldovan wines blacklisted by Russia meet EU standards.
“We don’t only export to the Russian federation but also to the European market because we have compliance,” he said.
He said the ban, imposed on the most popular Moldovan brands, comes as a surprise.
“The Patriarch of the Russian church was here and immediately the next day he leaves, we hear about the embargoes, and that is after the minister of agriculture was in Moscow and discussed about the conditions of exports and when he came back he was sure an embargo would not be imposed,” the Moldovan official said.
He added that the government is hoping the EU will help exercise political pressure on the Russian Federation to scrap the embargo.
The EU is hoping to conclude pacts with a handful of former Soviet republics at its "Eastern Partnership" summit in Vilnius in November.
But Russia, for its part, has launched a rival Customs Union, with an aim of regrouping some the same countries into its own free trade circle.
The Customs Union currently includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
But Moscow wants Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to also join and to transform the structure into a political bloc, the Eurasian Union, in 2015.
In a surprise move, Armenia backed out the EU plans earlier this month and announced it would join the Customs Union. Georgia’s Prime Minister has also expressed interest in the Kremlin’s offer.
Ukraine has said it will not submit to pressure from Moscow to scrap an EU trade agreement to be signed in Vilnius.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine it will take "protective measures" if it signs the EU pact.
In August, it already stopped Ukrainian products from crossing its border for around a week, causing alarm.