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MOSCOW, March 3. /TASS/. As uneasy calm returns to the east of Ukraine, Russia and European Union countries may agree on a mutual easing of sanctions. Hungary and Greece are prepared to spearhead this process, but quite a few obstructions may mushroom on the way, polled experts told TASS.
On Tuesday, three senior Russian officials - presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev - said there was a possibility of partial revision of the embargo the Russian government imposed on August 7, 2014 on the farm produce of some EU countries in response to anti-Russian sanctions.
In reply to a public request from Greece for a lifting of the ban on certain fruit imports, Peskov told the daily Izvestia that work is in progress on a pattern of international cooperation to open the door to raw materials for processing at Russian food factories on the condition of investment in Russia’s manufacturing industries. Peskov also recalled that during his working visit to Budapest in February this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that despite the sanctions, Russia would be able to co-operate with Hungary by creating joint ventures in the agro-industrial complex.
Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich said that pinpoint solutions regarding the food embargo were being considered at present, some involving organic babyfoods. Ulyukayev said Russia would look into the possibility of easing sanctions for Hungary and Greece to ensure there were no violations of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Senior lecturer at the foreign political activity chair of the presidential academy RANEPA Alexander Mikhailenko told TASS that as far as the food embargo is concerned, Russian authorities are prepared to meet Greece and Hungary halfway because both countries seek cooperation with Moscow and are trying to conduct policies of their own. "Russia’s policy in relations with EU member-states should be differentiated. Russian authorities have set the course towards easing the food embargo to the benefit of the economy and without causing harm to domestic manufacturers," he said.
Mikhailenko doubts the European Commission will place obstructions on Greece in its striving for a resumption of food exports to Russia.
"The economic situation in Greece has not been an easy one for quite some time," he said. "Now there is this Russian food embargo that has cost it several million euros of losses. The European Union would benefit from an easing of Russian anti-sanctions, but it must be a two-way street. Russia has exerted colossal efforts for the sake of implementing the Minsk Accords on a settlement in the east of Ukraine. As peace in Donbas gains strength, the two parties may agree to a mutual revision of sanctions," he believes.
Some obstructions may crop up on the way though, Mikhailenko warns. "Britain, Poland and the Baltic countries may present a common front against the initiative of Greece and Hungary and to demand that both should strictly adhere to the common goals and tasks of the European Union. Certain rifts are unavoidable, but common sense in the economy will eventually gain the upper hand," Mikhailenko believes.
As for suspicions the WTO might object to partial exemptions from the Russian food embargo for Greece and Hungary, the organization is against any sanctions, trade barriers and any artificial obstructions in the way of economic co-operation in general, the analyst said. "Besides, it is not against WTO rules to impose or lift sanctions if some country finds such a move crucial to ensuring national security. The notion is very vague. Not a single state has so far dared to dispute economic sanctions within the WTO," he recalled.
RANEPA international cooperation expert Roman Andreyeshchev invites everyone to look truth in the eye: Whether the European Union will allow Greece and Hungary to resume cooperation with Russia or not depends not on Brussels, but on Washington.
"US politicians have been making shuttle trips from one EU country to another to keep an eye on all those who may try to get out of step to ignore the regimen of pressures on Russia," he said. "As soon as Cyprus mentioned the possibility of expanding cooperation with Russia, it was instantly told to mind the common rules. Russia is interested in facilitating trading relations with EU countries on a reciprocal basis, but it is largely a question of the European Union’s independence," Andreyeshchev added.
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