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News 222 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Russia threatens to ban EU meat and feed

Russia has threatened to close its borders to all European meat and feed. Moscow says it is considering a ban on January 1 because lax controls in Romania and Bulgaria, which become EU members at the start of next year, would leave it vulnerable to the spread of diseases.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said Russia had no objection to Bulgaria or Romania entering the EU, but it was important for the two countries to meet all the requirements for entry, including tightening up their health standards, over which Russia continued to have concerns.

Avoid a complete ban
Yastrzhembsky said that is was not just a question of Romanian or Bulgarian meat, but more the sub-standard meat from elsewhere that could pass through the two countries. He said Russia would prefer to avoid a complete ban on EU meat products. Russia has already banned Polish meat for a year. In response to the ban, Warsaw vetoed the start of talks on a wide-ranging EU-Russian accord that would update relations between the two sides. Putin in the Financial Times warned Poland and other EU member states not to take a confrontational approach that would classify Moscow as a "friend or foe". He added that the two sides should "turn over a new leaf" in their relationship.

Disproportionate and costly
The EU has called Russia's ban on Polish meat "disproportionate" and Warsaw says it costs the country's farmers one million euros a day. However, in July, the European Commission found there were problems with processed meat. Russia carried out a similar threat in May 2004, when 10 new members, mostly from central Europe, joined. It banned animal feed for several weeks.
"There is no real reason for Russia to treat Europe in such a way," said Franz-Josef Feiter, head of Copa-Cogeca, the EU farmers' lobby. "We can assure them there will be no change in the quality of products from us."

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