ATHENS – With Russia setting in place a one-year ban on food stuffs and products from western countries in retaliation for economic sanctions over its role in a Ukraine uprising, Greek officials are hoping to secure a pledge that meats, agricultural, and dairy exports from Greece, among other commodities, would still be accepted.
Greece could lose almost 180 million euros if Russia goes ahead the ban, the Greek government said, fretful that the sanction on products from the European Union would put a dent in a looming recovery from a crushing economic crisis.
“We are making a constant effort to ensure that we only suffer the smallest possible consequences, even none at all, if possible,” said Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Meanwhile, Russian diplomatic officials reportedly have given verbal assurances that many Greek products would be left off the list of imports that Russia will ban when it provides a final list in the days to come, Kathimerini reported.
It said that sources at the Greek Foreign Ministry believe that Moscow recognizes Greece has tried to persuade the EU from taking sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.
Greece also hopes that its decision to assist Russian tourists stranded after two travel agencies went into bankruptcy was appreciated by Russian authorities, as well as traditionally close ties between two Orthodox countries.
“I do not want to discuss the process we are involved in,” said Venizelos. “As a European Union country, committed to its community obligations, we try to have the best relations with all countries and protect Greek agricultural production.”
Moscow imposed a one-year ban on all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the 28 EU countries, Canada, Australia and non-EU member Norway.
Russia is the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy products.
In 2013 Greek exports to Russia were worth a total of 178 million euros. However, they have already suffered a dip this year.
According to the Panhellenic Exporters Association, the value of Greek exports to Russia was down 23.9 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2013, falling from 82.9 million euros to 63 million.
If the embargo goes ahead it will have a significant effect on some areas of Greece, such as the peach-producing areas of Pella and Imathia. Around half of the fruit produced in these areas is exported to Russia.
The Foreign Ministry said it would immediately establish a working group for the monitoring of Greek exports to Russia, the Athens News Agency said.
The working group, which will consist of ministerial officials, as well as sectoral and export representatives, will also be exploring any expansion prospects to new markets, for Greek export goods.
This was decided on Aug. 7 at an extraordinary meeting called by the Foreign Ministry for discussing the potential fallout following the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of retaliatory measures against a series of sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU in the framework of the Ukrainian crisis.
Apart from ministerial dignitaries, representatives from the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE), the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE), the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA) and many more regional and professional associations, federations and chambers from all over Greece, attended.
Ministry officials as well as export and industry representatives expressed cautious optimism over Greece’s exports to Russia.
A total of five food-product groups are included in the official import prohibition list that Russia compiled as a reaction to a series of sanctions aimed against it by the USA, the EU and many Western states, in the framework of the Ukrainian crisis. These food groups include meat and sausages, seafood, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.
The Ria-Novosti news agency published on Aug. 7 a comprehensive, detailed list of the products affected, according to their unique Russian import codes.
The food groups banned from being imported into Russia do not include baby food, alcoholic drinks – like Greek wine – and olive oil, but include olives and all vegetables, which affects Greek produce exported to Russia.
Russian import bans will take effect immediately upon their detailed catalogue being published at the official Russian gazette Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Aug. 8.
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