Do the EU sanctions against Russia hinder the food supply of developing and emerging countries? A fierce dispute over this issue overshadowed the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. Specifically, Germany, together with countries such as France and the Netherlands, called for adjustments to be made to existing rules for punitive measures as part of the planned ninth package of sanctions against Russia. These are intended to prevent agricultural products and fertilizers from not being traded because of the penalties.
Other countries such as Poland and Lithuania, on the other hand, see reports of agricultural exports allegedly prevented by sanctions as Russian propaganda and did not want to accept any changes until the very end. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the summit that Russian lobbyists and agents are very active in Brussels. They wanted to ensure that the EU sanctions were relaxed.
Poland wants significantly tougher sanctions
According to Morawiecki, one of the things under discussion is removing the Russian oligarch Mosche Kantor, who is the main shareholder in the Russian fertilizer company Acron, from the sanctions list. Poland rejects this, said the head of government. Kantor is one of Putin's closest associates. "We call on all other countries, especially Germany, France and the Netherlands, to tighten sanctions," he said.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis confirmed that Lithuania and Poland are actively blocking the adoption of the new sanctions package. "In our view, the proposed exceptions actually reduce the importance of the ninth package very much," he said. This position is also supported by the other two Baltic states, Estonia and Latvia.
Evidence of restricted food exports
Countries like Germany, on the other hand, see clear indications that the Russia sanctions could restrict food and fertilizer exports. According to an argumentation paper distributed among the EU states, the Netherlands had registered a number of cases in which the necessary exceptional permits for trade could not be granted due to a lack of a suitable legal basis. It is believed that the current legal situation contributes to the criticism that sanctions affect trade.
It is also seen as an indication that the EU has recently had to accept criticism of its sanctions at several international summits - most recently at the summit of the EU states with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday.
The topic is particularly explosive because the EU publicly gives the impression that the sanctions are completely unproblematic. The website of the representation of the EU member states said on Thursday: "Anyone is allowed to trade in food and fertilizers from Russia and to buy them, transport them and ensure their acquisition." Food and fertilizers are expressly excluded from the EU sanctions.
The ninth package of sanctions against Russia is said to include new sanctions against Russian banks and additional trade restrictions. In addition, it is planned to put almost 200 other people and institutions on the sanctions list. Assets in the EU would then have to be frozen, and entry bans would also be imposed.