Russia retaliates against Moldova's EU treaty
Russia has banned imports of processed beef, horse meat, lamb, and pork from Europe’s poorest country - Moldova - the same day it ratified an EU trade treaty.
The Russian veterinary authority, Rosselkhoznadzor, on Wednesday (2 July) cited concerns over African swine fever in its decision, which enters into force on Saturday.
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The move came as Moldova's parliament adopted an EU free trade and political association agreement by 59 votes against four, while 38 MPs from the pro-Russia Communist Party staged a walkout.
President Nicolae Timofti said “We are determined to advance toward Europe, because Moldovan people deserve to live according to the same standards as Europeans”.
The treaty will enter into force on 1 October, shortly before general elections in November.
If the Communists win, they could, in theory, revoke the EU pact. But they are polling at 30 percent, while support for the pro-European coalition is growing, not least due to the EU’s lifting of visa restrictions this year.
Iulian Groza, Moldova's deputy foreign minister, told EUobserver on Thursday the next step will be to formally apply for EU membership: “The earliest we could do this is one year after the DCFTA [the EU trade pact] enters into force. After one year of implementation we would have the moral right to do that, so we are looking at late 2015, but, of course, it also depends on European support [for the move].”
He said the processed meat ban is "symbolic" because Moldova mainly exports raw meat to Russia. He noted that Belarus, a Russian ally, did not follow suit, just as it did not follow Russia on a previous wine ban.
For his part, Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin, on Wednesday in Moscow also met with delegates from Moldova’s breakaway region of Transniestria.
He said they signed agreements aimed at redirecting Transniestrian exports from EU markets to Russia.
He added that Moldova’s pro-EU step goes against “life’s natural logic”.
He said it violates Transniestrians’ “fundamental rights” and Russia “will render all kinds of assistance to the region so that it can survive this difficult period”.
Transniestria, which broke away in the 1990s, hosts about 2,500 Russian soldiers and an ammunition dump, but is encircled by Moldova and Ukraine.
Groza said Chisinau does not know the content of Transniestria's new Russia accords. But he noted that Moldovan and Russian officials hold regular meetings on the EU trade pact and related developments.
Amid Russian-stoked turmoil in east Ukraine, he added “there are no signs” of similar attempts to destabilise the situation in Transniestria.
Separately, the French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian foreign ministers met in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss prospects for peace.
They agreed to talk again on Saturday amid plans to revive a Contact Group which includes some rebel leaders.
Germany called the meeting after Ukraine on Tuesday resumed full-scale hostilities against the insurgents and after Russia repeated threats to "protect" Russian speakers in Ukraine.
Polish diplomats told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that Poland’s FM, Radek Sikorski, was left out of the Berlin talks “most likely” at Russia’s request because of his hawkish views on Russia-Ukraine relations.