Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s answer to a media question following EU’s anti-Russia moves in the sphere of trade and economy

Submitted on Tue, 07/02/2024 - 05:21

Question: On May 30, the Council of the European Union approved a proposal put forward by the European Commission to raise duties on grains, oilseeds and oilseed products, as well as animal feed imported from Russia and Belarus which, in fact, means banning these imports. What can you say about this?

Maria Zakharova: We consider these decisions as another volley of illegitimate unilateral restrictive measures imposed on our country by the EU. The form has no bearing on the content. The issue is about trying out a mechanism for imposing a wider set of anti-Russia agricultural sanctions under the guise of trade and political measures and, moreover, doing so in an expedited manner that does not need the unanimous approval by all EU members. In doing so, Brussels is shamelessly trying to pass this move as a way of responding to the aspirations of European farmers.

As a reminder, ordinary Europeans were asking to put an end to unchecked imports of cheap low-grade agricultural products from Ukraine to the EU, which had created insupportable environment of competition for the EU agrarians and unbalanced the intra-European market putting farmers in peril of going bankrupt.

What did they get from Brussels in the end?

What they got first was prohibitive agricultural import duties, but they applied to Russia and Belarus rather than Ukraine, with the decision makers behind this step recognising that Russia “supplies relatively small amounts of grains and oilseeds to the EU.”

To justify this measure, they used a far-fetched pretext of protecting the EU economies from theoretical damage and serious shocks in case Russia abruptly decides to redirect significant amounts of its exports that are now going to the EU, thereby weakening it economically and politically, and creating social tensions and discord inside the EU.

Next thing the EC came up with to make its farmers “happy” was to extend duty-free imports of the Ukrainian products to the EU for one more year, which will reinforce the Ukrainian agricultural products’ position on the EU domestic market. In other words, the problem that gave rise to actual social tensions and posed risks for the economic activity, well-being and welfare of European residents, has not been resolved. Clearly, this is Ursula von der Leyen and Co.’s idea of addressing farmers’ requests.

We believe the way Brussels responded to an imaginary rather than actual irritant that bothers European agrarians will not find understanding with EU’s rural dwellers and will keep the protest sentiment with regard to the policies pursued by the EU leadership lingering. It will also remain a factor underlying economic and political instability in the EU countries where agrarians constitute a significant portion of the electorate, and contribute to the mounting disappointment in the “European project” among a certain number of the Europeans.

Also remarkable is the fact that Brussels considers re-directing the freed up Russian food to the developing countries as the “added value” that stems from raising tariffs on Russian agricultural products. Considering that Brussels set itself the goal of feeding the entire world with Ukrainian grain, and agricultural exports from Ukraine to countries other than the EU remain inexistent two years into that project, this turn of events is nothing short of Brussels sneering not only at European agrarians, but also at the third countries, whose interests the EU has traditionally used as a front. We will figure out on our own ways to ensure food security of our partners from Africa and Asia. Most importantly, Brussels should stay out of our way.

Our response won’t be long in coming.