Russia offers at best gradual review of EU vegetable ban
Russia, which has banned all EU vegetable exports amid a killer E. coli outbreak, said Tuesday the best it could offer was to relax restrictions state-by-state upon production of individual safety guarantees.
"Russia does not intend to keep the ban forever," said Russian EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov. Moscow lay claim before the ban to buying one quarter of all EU vegetable exports, he said.
However, while Spain's producers have already tallied losses as heading towards the billion-euro mark from an evaporation in consumer confidence even within the European Union, Chizhov said the onus was still on national capitals and the EU's Brussels headquarters to deliver proof food is safe.
"Should those countries and the EU authorities produce credible guarantees, I wouldn't exclude that the ban could be reviewed and sort of regionalised," Chizhov said, two days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso open a summit in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.
"First we need full information on the origin, geographical spread and the measures taken within the EU that would exclude the possibility of transfer of contamination of whatever -- so far it seems to be vegetables -- into Russian territory.
"Unfortunately at this time there is no clear picture of where and how it originated... (and) people are still dying," he said, on the day the toll rose to 25 after two elderly German women also fell victim.
"I can certainly understand the grievances of EU farmers and I sympathise, but you can certainly understand no material loss is comparable to the loss of human life," the ambassador insisted.
Russia introduced its ban on June 2, which the EU has argued is disproportionate and scientifically unjustified.
The European Commission is asking EU states to release 150 million euros in aid to European vegetable producers whose sales have been decimated.
© 2011 AFP