The European Commission has reacted angrily to a Russian decision to ban EU meat exports worth around €1.3 billion a year, and has not ruled out retaliatory action.
"We are surprised and disappointed" said Reijo Kemppinen, the Commission's chief spokesperson, describing the measures as "unnecessary and unjust". In recent months the EU and Russia appeared to have overcome major disputes over EU enlargement and Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) but this move will come as a major blow to those seeking to improve relations after a rough patch. "This kind of behavior is not behavior one would expect from a potential WTO member", said Kemppinen. It is thought the Russian authorities will no longer accept the validity of veterinary certificates from around a dozen of the EU's member states, although details are not yet clear. The Russian authorities say they want one single EU certificate to be issued by the Commission in place of those from the member states, something which Mr Kemppinen said was "not going to happen". The Commission was quick to play down the likelihood of this action being an attack on the new member states of the European Union, many of whom were formerly behind the Iron Curtain. It is unclear which products are subject to the restrictions and if dairy products are also included in the ban. (EUobserver.com)