Time to reconsider EU sanctions against Moscow, say German farmers

Dairy farmer protest. Brussels, 7 September. [Joel Schalit/Flickr]

The EU should reconsider its sanctions against Moscow due to the Ukraine crisis, as the farming sector is struggling, the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) told EURACTIV.

According to a DBV report for 2014-2015 published on Tuesday (8 December), the average farm’s income fell by 35% compared to the previous year, to €43,300.

That means that an average farmer’s monthly income amounted to €2,500 or €30,000 per year, the association said.

>>Read: German Farmers’ Association accused of hypocrisy

DBV, which represents some 280,000 businesses in Germany, attributed the “drastic worsening” of conventional farming to the Russian embargo and the slowdown in China.

A solution with Russia

Peter Pascher, DBV ‘s Head of Unit, told EURACTIV that the Russian embargo had severely hit the agricultural sector in Germany, “directly and indirectly”.

He added it was time to “rethink” the EU’s sanctions, and to find solutions to the conflict.

“As other member states, we are looking for other markets outside the EU, with a certain success. It is an ongoing process,” he stressed.

In September, the European Commission unlocked €500 million in aid to farmers hit by falling prices and a ban on exports to Russia, as angry protestors took to the streets of Brussels.

>>Read: EU throws lifeline to farmers as protests bring Brussels to a standstill

Part of the aid package was designated for funding dairy export promotions, in order to open up markets in third countries, with a special focus on Asia, an EU source told EURACTIV.

>>Read: Commission targets new Asian markets for EU dairy exports

The EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia’s banking, oil and defense sectors after the July 2014 shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet, blamed on pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine [See background].

Russian intervention in the Syrian crisis, though, has likely changed the priorities of EU member states.

Ambassadors from the the EU28 had been expected at a meeting on Wednesday (10 December) to sign off on a six-month extension of sanctions, which are due to expire at the end of January.

But according to AFP, on Wednesday (9 December), member states postponed talks.

>>Read: Italy keeps the ball rolling over Russia sanctions renewal

The issue will probably be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers, in Brussels, on Monday (14 December).

China’s demand

Meanwhile, the German Farmers’ Association believes the deterioration of conventional farming in the country could also be attributed to slowing demand from China.

“The global economic situation and the worldwide economic growth is not the best, particularly the situation in China. 3% less economic growth in China means one percent less worldwide,” Pascher said.

“And all oil exporting countries are gaining less money due to the fallen price of oil. I’m sure that there are several other reasons for the slowdown of demand in Asian countries,” he added. 

The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.

Moscow annexed Crimea in March, following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. On 11 May, pro-Moscow rebels declared a resounding victory in a referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk, which the West called illegal and illegitimate.

The situation has worsened since then. In July, EU resolve to punish Russia strengthened after the downing in Ukraine of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, killing all 298 people on board. 194 of the passengers were from the Netherlands.

Western leaders say pro-Russian rebels almost certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile. Moscow has blamed Kyiv for the tragedy.

  • End of January 2016: EU economic sanctions against Moscow expire

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