Sanctions bite-back: Bickering, EU infighting over Russia retaliation

There is growing dissent in the EU over policies that led to a de
fact trade war with Russia. Meanwhile the countries not toeing the line
are reaping the benefits, irritating those who jumped on the sanctions

China to start direct sales of fruit and
vegetables to Russia

Greek members of the European Parliament demanded Sunday that the
EU cancel sanctions against Russia. MEPs Kostantinos Papadakis
and Sotiris Zarianopoulos said in a letter to some senior EU
officials that Russia’s ban on food import from the EU, which was to anti-Russian sanctions,
was ruinous to Greek agriculture.

“Thousands of small- and middle-sized Greek farms producing
fruit and vegetables and selling them primarily to the Russian
market have been hit hard now as their unsold products are now
rotting at warehouses,” the letter said.

The MEPs are representing the Communist Party of Greece and blame
the EU leaders and their own government for supporting what they
called “an imperialist intervention by the US, the EU and
NATO” in Ukraine at the expense of good relations with

Greece is one of the EU members hit hardest by the Russian import
ban, partially due to its economy still being in turmoil. Greek
farmers stand to lose an estimated 200 million euro in direct
damages due to Russia’s move, with more long-term consequences
expected even if year-long ban is not renewed on expiry. The
producers may find it very hard to win back the market share they
had before the ban as non-affected countries would certainly
weight in.

Similar sentiments came Sunday from Heinz-Christian Strache,
Chairman of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, which has 20
percent of seats in the lower chamber of the national parliament
and showed similarly strong results in this year’s European
parliamentary election.

“In just a few days after the [Russian] sanctions came into
force they hurt out agriculture. The EU is thinking on how to
mitigate it. Instead of putting Russia on its knees, they drag
our farmers to ruin with their senseless sanctions policy,”
Strache said ac sited by Austria Presse Agentur.

He also lashed out at Kiev for considering a of Russian gas into Europe
to hurt Russia, calling such statements “an affront to their
own allies” and “a mockery of the EU,” which will
have to save Ukraine from bankruptcy.

He called on the Austrian government to clearly state their
policy on the situation.

Gregor Gysi, a German parliament member from the Left Party,
criticized on Sunday the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel
for supporting the sanctions policy, which he called “childish.”

“[US President Barack] Obama talks about economic sanctions
all the time, but the response hits us, not the US,” the
politician said in an interview with ARD television.

“If we isolate Russia, we will have no influence,” he
added. “We must learn to talk to each other again.”

The irritation with the damage caused by the sanctions
confrontation in Europe comes amid anger towards those who chose
not to confront Russia and so were not hit back. Estonian
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves lashed out at Switzerland for
taking a neutral stance in the conflict, which allows its bankers
and traders to profit in the Russian market.

"Switzerland must live with the criticism that it has only
dispensed with its own sanctions to gain an advantage for its
banking sector," the Estonian leader said in an interview
with Sonntags Zeitung newspaper published on Sunday.

Switzerland, not being an EU member, is not obliged to enforce
all anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the union. It took measures
last week to ensure that it does not serve as a route to bypass
EU’s sanctions, but declined to impose its own.

Bern cited a need to remain neutral, especially since it is now
chairing the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe,
a key mediator in the Ukrainian crisis.

"The concept of neutrality is for me as empty today as ever
before," said Ilves.

The US and its allies have been imposing increasingly tough
sanctions against Russia as punishment for its stance in the
Ukrainian crisis. They accuse Russia of supporting the armed
militia in eastern Ukraine, which is fighting against the
Kiev-loyal troops. Moscow accuses the Western countries of
hypocrisy, saying they are turning a blind eye to any crimes
committed by the Ukrainian regime, which they helped to take over
power in the first place.