Friday

22nd Sep 2023

Russia hits EU allies with symbolic food ban

  • The Iceland seafood ban is the biggest component of the new measures (Photo: European Commission)

Russia has extended its food import ban to four EU allies and threatened to impose future sanctions on Ukraine.

The extension covers Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Montenegro. The ban on Ukrainian agricultural exports is to come into effect on 1 January 2016 if Ukraine implements the trade provisions of its EU association treaty.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The four EU allies were targeted because they have aligned themselves with EU sanctions on Russia.

Two Western Balkan states, Macedonia and Serbia, were spared because their Russia-friendly governments have refused to join the EU sanctions regime despite being obliged to do so under their EU accession commitments.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev signed the decree on Thursday (13 August).

"They [the four EU allies] said their decision to join the EU sanctions against Russia was motivated by a number of agreements with the European Union. This stance is only partly fair”, he told a cabinet meeting.

“I would like to note that a number of countries, which have a similar agreement with the European Union, have refused to impose sanctions against Russia. So, the decision to join the anti-Russian sanctions was a conscious choice, which means that the countries who did that are ready for the retaliatory measures”.

The new import ban is more of symbolic gesture than an economic blow.

Fish and fruit

The Iceland ban is the biggest. According to Russia’s Federal Customs Service, the Nordic state exported $232 million of mostly seafood to Russia in 2014.

Albania exported $10 million of fruit and dairy. Montenegro exported $40,000 of fruit and vegetables. Liechtenstein didn’t export any food.

The potential Ukraine ban is more significant, with food exports to Russia last year still worth $415 million, out of total exports of $11 billion, despite the conflict over Crimea and in east Ukraine.

Russia says the implementation of the free trade part of the EU-Ukraine pact will see its markets hit by cheap EU products.

The EU, Russia, and Ukraine, last September, agreed to delay the implementation to soothe Russia’s concerns.

EU institutions were drafting their reaction to the Russian threat on Friday morning.

But a senior EU diplomat told EUobserver: “I think it's an attempt to exert pressure on the trilateral talks in order to get as many concessions as possible before the deadline [1 January 2016]”.

He said “the real threat” is that Russia will axe its overall free trade agreement with Ukraine, hitting exports across the board.

But he added that, due to the conflict, “Ukraine-Russia trade has now, in any case, dropped drastically - it’s almost negligible”.

Bulldozers

Russia, earlier this month, began bulldozing and burning stockpiles of seized EU food and of Dutch flowers, which are subject to a separate ban.

The spectacle has prompted a debate in Russian society, with Russia’s Communist Party saying the food should instead be given to the poor.

Levada, an independent pollster, says 48 percent of Russians don’t support food destruction, but 40 percent do.

The pollster, on Thursday, also said 36 percent of Russians think Russia “won just as much as everyone else” from the end of the Cold War, but 29 percent think it “ended up as the loser”.

Sixty-two percent of Russians think Russian-Western relations will “always be rooted in mistrust”.

The new wave of Russian sanctions comes shortly after a flare-up in fighting in east Ukraine.

Asked if the political and military developments herald an intensification of the crisis, the senior EU diplomat said: “We’re going to be in this for the long haul”.

“The premises of the crisis are completely different for its different parties. For [Russian president] Putin, it’s about political survival, so he’s ready to sacrifice a lot. For the West, with the exception of Poland and the Baltic states, it’s just another crisis”.

EU’s €500m gender violence plan falls short, say auditors

The 'Spotlight Initiative' was launched in 2017 with a budget of €500 million to end all forms of violence or harmful practices against women and girls in partner countries, but so far it has had "little impact", say EU auditors.

Latest News

  1. Europe's energy strategy: A tale of competing priorities
  2. Why Greek state workers are protesting new labour law
  3. Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power
  4. Here's the headline of every op-ed imploring something to stop
  5. Report: Tax richest 0.5%, raise €213bn for EU coffers
  6. EU aid for Africa risks violating spending rules, Oxfam says
  7. Activists push €40bn fossil subsidies into Dutch-election spotlight
  8. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us