NEWS

Gov't prepares for fallout of Russian embargo despite hopes of exemption

Government officials on Friday were said to be preparing for the potential impact of a Russian ban on food imports from the European Union despite earlier reports of reassurances from Moscow that many Greek products would be exempted from the embargo.

The cautious optimism expressed by Greek officials on Thursday that there would be a “differentiation” from the embargo for Greek products appeared to be fading yesterday amid fears that Russian reassurances would fail to materialize due to bureaucratic obstacles or objections from the Kremlin. Further, Greek Foreign Ministry sources indicated that proposed exemptions for Greece might run into legal obstacles.

Ministry officials referred to a “positive climate” between Greek and Russian diplomats and said it was likely that Moscow would wait until early next week – to gauge the West’s reaction to its embargo decision – before finalizing a list of banned imports.

The prospect of a protracted delay has fueled concerns in Athens as the bulk of the exports that would be affected by the Russian embargo are perishable goods such as fruit and vegetables. Russian importers have already canceled several orders from Greece.

Worries were exacerbated on Friday after a scheduled meeting between Greek Embassy officials in Moscow and members of Russia’s food inspection service was postponed. It is now expected that Greece’s ambassador in Moscow, Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou, will meet with service officials on Monday.

In the meantime, according to sources, Greek government officials are preparing for the potential fallout from an unadulterated Russian embargo and are said to have drafted a request for compensation from the European Union for likely losses.

Agricultural experts from all 28 members of the EU are scheduled to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the likely impact of Russia’s embargo on food imports. Moscow’s ban also applies to imports from the US, Canada and non-EU member Norway.

Greece could lose an estimated 180 million euros if the Russian embargo is imposed on Greek products without exemptions, with peach and tomato producers among those expected to suffer the most.

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