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The deadlock between Russia and the European Union over the possible reopening of the pig meat trade banned because of the outbreak of African swine fever in the Baltic states appears to be more and more entrenched.
Earlier this month, the EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan told the European Parliament that the doors were still open for negotiations but there was no movement from the Russian side.
He described the Russian action on banning exports of pig meat as “protectionist”.
“I also want to reassure the House that the Commission has and is continuing to make every effort to lift the protectionist ban imposed by Russia on pig products from the EU,” he told the European Parliament.
“Over recent months and in parallel with the WTO procedure, the Commission has made numerous efforts to convince Russia to engage in meaningful technical negotiations for an agreed solution at EU level.
“We also made clear that we are ready to examine any concrete proposal Russia submitted to the EU.
“Commissioner Andriukaitis expressed the Commission’s position on this matter during a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to the EU last month, and continues to pursue efforts towards the lifting of the ban.
“Even though so far the Russian reaction has not been very positive, the dialogue remains open.”
However, the Russian side has reacted angrily over the commissioners’ description of its stance as protectionist.
The veterinary authority, Rosselkhoznador, has placed the blame firmly at the commissioner’s feet.
“We cannot agree with Commissioner Hogan that protective measures taken by Russia are ‘protectionist’ or as other European officials say ‘excessive’,” Rosselkhoznador said.
The veterinary authority reminded the commission that in 2014 when the outbreak of ASF was first discovered in Lithuania and Poland, it had called on the commission to ensure the safety of the pig breeding farms in the rest of Europe by carrying out measures equivalent to those being taken in Russia.
It said that Europe should have adopted a regionalisation policy and negotiated new forms of veterinary certificates for the European Union countries.
But Rosselkhoznador said the commission refused to accept Russia’s proposals.
“At the same time, the European Commission had a very negative attitude to direct contact between the national veterinary services of European countries and Rosselkhoznador,” the Russian veterinary agency said.
“In practical terms, the resumption of pork supplies from the European Union is only possible if a health certificate is issued by the national veterinary authority of the exporting country within the EU, indicating that a country has been free from African swine fever for the last three years.”
Rosselkhoznador said that this practice had existed for a long time, for example in the case of Finland exporting pig products to Hong Kong and China, Italy to China and New Zealand Austria to Korea and Belgium to Korea and China.
“Despite the existence of such a practice in relation to other states, the European Commission prohibited European countries involved in supplying pork to Russia, bilateral veterinary certificates,” the agency said.
It added that for the EU to put the blame on Russia for ending the supply routes to Russia for pork products was very strange.
It said the European Commission’s action led to the end of the pig meat trade with Russia and because of that Russia had to quickly find supplies from other continents.
Rosselkhoznador said that at present the number of cases if the disease in the EU has exceeded 2000 and there are concerns about the possible spread to Hungary, Slovakia and Germany.
It said that the EU needs to take into account how the disease is deep-set in the wild boar population in Poland and the Baltic states and it said there is a lack of traceability of products and effective controls on the internal EU market.
Rosselkhoznador said that in Russia there had been just 15 outbreaks of the disease in the first quarter of the year – nine in the Penza region and Crimea and six in the Moscow and Ryazan regions and in Karbardino-Balkaria. In Europe there have been 531 cases during the same period.
Professor Konstantin Gruzdev said there is a “… lack of preventive measures undertaken by the veterinary services as well as measures aimed at controlling and eradicating ASF.
“Measures taken by the veterinary services of the European Union, are intended to protect the trade interests of farmers and not at the elimination of the disease.
“The veterinary services in countries affected by ASF have not learnt from their mistakes, enabling the pathogen to take root in new territories and increase the risk of further spread.”