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23rd Feb 2019

Russia to pick which EU states can export food

  • Russian consumers are paying 'a high price' for EU-type deliciacies (Photo: swerz)

The European Commission has agreed to let Russia choose which EU states can be exempt from its food ban.

The deal was struck in Berlin last week between Ladislav Miko, a top EU health and safety official, and Sergey Dankvert, his Russian counterpart.

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  • EU farmers have lost hundreds of millions of euros (Photo: Andrew Stawarz)

According to a letter from Miko to Dankvert dated 16 January, and seen by EUobserver, the mechanism for lifting the Russian ban involves the EU issuing health certificates and Russia deciding which member states meet them following inspections.

“In order to come back to the situation before the ban, our understanding is that trade could resume based on EU-wide veterinary certificates and inspection by importing country [Russia]”, it says.

It lists items covered by the deal as: “delicatessen, selected dairy and meat products, traditional products, niche products, [and] PGI/PDO etc.”.

PGI/PDO refers to items with an EU “protected designation of origin”, such as “Piemontese salami” or “Tenerife honey”.

The letter says “we understand that there is a high price in the Russian market” for equivalent goods.

It adds that “fat, lard, offal, meat, meals, and similar products” are also covered.

With EU and US diplomats in the past 48 hours fretting over Russia’s escalation of its war on Ukraine, Miko described his meeting with Dankvert as “fruitful”.

He said he hopes trade in “ware potatoes” will soon follow.

He also “reiterated the EU commitment for co-operation” with Russia on food fraud and on African swine fever.

EU farmers and exporters lost hundreds of millions of euros after Russia imposed the food ban last August in retaliation against EU economic sanctions.

Pick and choose

But some capitals are concerned Moscow will exploit the new arrangements to reward Russia-friendly EU states and to punish its adversaries.

"The letter says Russia is free to make its own arrangements with individual member states. This gives them a green light to pick and choose which countries they'll work with", an EU diplomat said.

“It's bad news. We have decided ourselves to give up on EU solidarity”, the contact added.

“The Russia sanctions were imposed on all member states, so they should be lifted in the same way".

Enrico Brivio, a commission spokesman, defended the Berlin arrangements, however.

“That’s for sure not the sense of this agreement. The idea was to guarantee a common framework that's applied in a fair way to all member states. This is clearly what it’s about”, he told EUobserver on Wednesday (21 January).

“Our expectation is that it should be applied in a fair way to all member states”.

Asked how come Russia has changed the reason for the ban from political to health and safety grounds, he replied: “You should ask the Russians”.

Asked if Russia's Dankvert requested the EU lifts some of its sanctions in return, Brivio said: “No quid pro quo was mentioned on other issues”.

Russia relaxes EU food ban, counts costs

Russia has said its ban on EU food imports will cost it “hundreds of billions of rubles”, while taking several items off the blacklist.

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