18th Mar 2018

Putin cheese: EU farmers to get 'targeted' compensation

  • Finns have dubbed the banned Oltermanni "Putin cheese" (Photo: Ville Säävuori)

European farmers hit by a Russian embargo on fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat are likely to tap a €400 million EU emergency fund from October on.

Speaking after a snap meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels on Friday (5 September), farming commissioner Dacian Ciolos said ministers "discussed the suggestion of direct targeted compensation" and of using unspent EU funds for the sectors and countries concerned.

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Ciolos said he still needs member states’ data on which sectors are the most affected and what the losses are.

He said it is important to make the analysis as quickly as possible so the 2009 experience is avoided, when "compensation came only a year after" dairy farmers were affected by a dramatic fall in milk prices.

"Our intention is not to wait so long," Ciolos said.

An EU source who took part in the Council meeting said Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states already presented details on how much the Russia ban has hurt their exports.

The Finnish minister even brought samples of what is now being called "Putin cheese" - a yellow cheese that was mostly exported to Russia until the embargo.

Some member states wanted to use unspent money from other EU budget lines.

Irish farm minister Simon Coveney, for one, on his way into the Council made the case for the extra EU funds to be used since farmers are "baring the brunt of [EU] foreign policy decisions”.

Ciolos said the commission will discuss the idea next week, but he pointed to the "many restrictions" the EU commission has in the way it uses its money.

The EU's common agricultural policy does possess an emergency fund of €400 million for 2015, which can be accessed from October on.

"The most likely outcome is that this fund will be tapped [instead]," an EU source said.

The ministers from the most affected countries are wary the embargo will last longer than the fund can cover the damages, however.

Another way to counter the impact is to allow national subsidies, which have to be notified and co-ordinated because they are considered a market distortion. But the Romanian state secretary objected to this idea, saying it would "discriminate" against poorer member states who cannot afford state aid.

Meanwhile, the EU commission has already started intervening on specific markets such as nectarines or tomatoes and will continue to monitor and intervene on a weekly basis if need be.

A next meeting of farm ministers is planned for 29 September in Milan.

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