European Commissioner for health Tonio Borg has assured his Russian counterparts that the ASF outbreak was confined to the southern part of that Baltic state and that EU measures had been enforced to contain infections. “I deeply regret that our Russian partners are effectively banning exports even from EU member states, which are clearly not affected by the incident,” health commissioner Tonio Borg declared. “The Commission reiterates that, in view of the reassurances provided, such a ban is disproportionate”.
A team of veterinary experts from the Commission have remained in the affected Šalčininkai and Alytus-Varėna regions since they were dispatched last week, helping local authorities stop the virus infecting other animals. Belarussian and Russian vets have since joined them, along with experts from the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).
Furthermore, the Commission has claimed that the virus came from outside the EU, probably in Belarus – part of the Customs Union with Russia. For Borg, a solution is needed soon, due to Russia’s importance as an EU meat export market. He plans to meet Russian authorities in Moscow to agree on “a reasonable solution to solve the problem”.
The ban will have disappointed Brussels officials, who will have hoped for an end to apparently arbitrary Russian food bans after Gennady Onishchenko, the protectionist ex-head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, was sacked last October (2013). But EU/Russia relations have been soured by rows over the political crisis in Ukraine. At a recent summit in Brussels, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso compared the EU and Russia to a quarrelling middle-aged couple. “It’s a process where two mature partners discuss issues on which they are close, and on which they are not so close,” he said.