24th Oct 2016

Russia imposes retaliatory sanctions on EU

Moscow is slapping a ban on EU-imported fruit and vegetables and food from the US in retaliation for western economic sanctions.

A Russian decree published Wednesday (6 August) called upon government officials to put forward a list of agricultural products and raw materials to be banned for up to one year.

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  • Putin signed a decree on Wednesday to ban some food imports from the EU (Photo: World Economic Forum)

The decree does not list the specific products or name the countries although the government is expected to announce the full list on Thursday.

But Russia's food safety watchdog VPSS, Alexei Alexeenko, was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying fruit and vegetables from member states backing the EU sanctions would be blacklisted.

"Fruits and vegetables from the European Union will also be under full ban," he said.

According to RIA Novosti, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Slovakia, and Spain could be on the Russian list.

Among the products cited by country are meats, poultry, fish, drinks and coffee.

Poland was already targeted last month when Moscow announced it would no longer import Polish apples, pears, cherries, nectarines, plums, and varieties of cabbage. The Russian government cited health and sanitary reasons.

The latest ban also hits import products from the US, and possibly Canada, and Australia.

The measures are seen as a tit-for-tat response to broad economic sanctions recently imposed on Russia by the European Union.

The EU’s so-called stage three sanctions ban financial instruments by Russian-state-owned banks, enact a non-retroactive arms embargo, and impose export limitations on dual-use technologies.

The European Commission says the EU stands to lose €40 billion this year alone from the stage three sanctions and that the amount is set to increase to €50 billion next year.

The effect of the sanctions has already caused unease in some EU states, with Finland saying it will potentially seek compensation.

“It is without doubt clear that, if sanctions hit Finland disproportionately, we will seek support from our European partners,” said Finland’s prime minister Alexander Stubb.

Russia is Finland’s largest trading partner, according to the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce. Total Finnish exports last year to Russia amounted to €5.4 billion. Around 7.5 percent was food and drink, reports Finnish state broadcaster YLE.

As the EU’s third largest trading partner, Russia is one of the biggest importers of fruit and vegetables grown by member states. In 2013, it imported around €2 billion worth of fruit and vegetables.

In terms of overall trade, last year the EU exported some €120 billion in goods and another €28 billion in services to Russia.

Agricultural products accounted for around €12 billion of the EU exports, according to the European Commission.

Meanwhile as the sanctions battle steps up, Nato has estimated that some 20,000 Russian combat-ready soldiers are now stationed near the border with Ukraine.

Poland has said there is now a greater risk that Russia will make a direct intervention in Ukraine.

"We have reasons to suspect – we have been receiving such information in the last several hours – that the risk of a direct intervention is higher than it was several days ago,” said prime minister Donald Tusk.

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