Russia has imposed an import ban on Moldovan wines and spirits citing health concerns. The ban, effective as of today, is another in a string of trade-war maneuvers from Russia upon its neighbours, which experts argue are designed to deter its former republics EU aspirations. Russia’s public health chief Gennady Onishchenko explained, “We don’t intend to act as a nanny for the Moldovan economy. The ban is a necessary step that we have undertaken reluctantly, but it is the only possible way of solving the present situation.”
Exports of wines and spirits such as cognac and vodka are a big money maker for Moldova–one of Europe’s poorest countries. Russia is its main buyer, and represents the main market for its alcoholic drinks, which brought in some €100 million last year.
— nicu popescu (@nicupopescu) September 11, 2013
According to Nikolaj Nielsen of the EU Observer, a high-ranking Moldovan official, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that Russia has a history of imposing bans to exercise political pressure on Moldova’s “sovereign choices.” The source was careful to point out that the Moldovan wines blacklisted by Russia meet EU standards:
“We don’t only export to the Russian federation but also to the European market because we have compliance,” the source explained.
He continued, explaining that the sudden trade ban came as a shock to Moldova:
“The Patriarch of the Russian church was here and immediately the next day he leaves, we hear about the embargoes, and that is after the minister of agriculture was in Moscow and discussed about the conditions of exports and when he came back he was sure an embargo would not be imposed.”
Moldovan Economy Minister Valerii Lazar, reiterated this confusion, saying:
“We will have to clarify where technical problems about the quality of Moldovan wine end and where political aspects begin.”
Russia’s hopes that the Eastern Partnership countries will re-think EU integration, as Armenia has, stem from its desire for some of its former Republics into the Putin driven Eurasian Union. Moscow has expressed its wish for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to also join and to transform the structure into a political bloc, the Eurasian Union by 2015.
Russia’s tactics for persuasion have caught headlines, after the trade war last month with Ukraine, and even an on-going trade tiff with its l0ve-hate ally Belarus. Ukraine has in turn reiterated that in will not be swayed by Russia’s pressure, and still plans to sign the free trade agreement with the EU in November. Moldova emphasised this point also last week, when Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti answered to Russia’s hints that EU-integration could bring retaliation from Moscow:
“Moldova’s course of European integration will continue. The statements by a functionary of another state are his private affair. We have a program of European integration which we will enact irrespective of any such statements.People must understand that they cannot live under permanent pressure from threats. Citizens have to elect a leadership of the country which will act so as not to rely on one single source of energy.”
Obvious Russia economic war against Moldova to stop its EU reform and integration efforts. http://t.co/A3xYFXftyh
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) September 11, 2013
— Eitvydas Bajarunas (@EitvydasB) September 11, 2013
Trading is an art…
— Balazs Jarabik (@BalazsJarabik) September 11, 2013
The plot thickens… now Armenia replacing all its (Russia-produced) military comms w/ NATO-compatible radios? http://t.co/dQxBfGcYNW
— Joshua Kucera (@joshuakucera) September 11, 2013
Dour Grapes: Russia Bans Moldovan Wine, Again http://t.co/GYbq8uRflv
— RFE/RL (@RFERL) September 11, 2013