ATHENS – Set to take big losses because of a Russian ban on foods from the United States, Europe and allies in retaliation for western sanctions over Ukraine, Greek farmers are in line to get paid, either from the government, the EU, or both.
“Greek producers will have the state’s full support,” the Foreign Ministry said as it tried to downplay the impact of the one-year ban by Russian authorities. Greek officials earlier had said they were confident the country would be exempted because of its close ties to Moscow.
“The Russian market is a very important destination for fresh Greek agricultural products but the turnover in terms of number is limited and can be dealt with on a national and European level,” said the Foreign Ministry.
Government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi said the goverment is listening to the farmers’ demands for compensation for losses they said are being caused by politics.
“The farmers are absolutely right: Their crops are being left unsold,” she told Mega TV. “Whatever happens, they will be compensated – either with national or European funds.”
Russia has imposed the ban on all meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the 28 EU countries, Canada, Australia and non-EU member Norway. Russia is by far the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy products.
In 2013 Greek exports to Russia were worth a total of 178 million euros. However, they have already suffered a dip this year.
According to the Panhellenic Exporters Association, the value of Greek exports to Russia was down 23.9 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2013, falling from 82.9 million euros to 63 million.
The Foreign Ministry also dismissed criticism from within Greece of the government’s decision to back sanctions against Russia, which triggered the embargo on imports last week, although Greece had also argued against them.
“Our country, as a member state of the European Union, takes part in the forming and implementation of collective European decisions while taking into account a host of parameters and having as its only criteria the overall and long-term safeguarding of national interests,” said the ministry.
Voultepsi accused opposition parties critical of the government’s foreign policy of adopting an “anti-European” approach.
“You cannot base your foreign policy on peaches,” said Voultepsi, according to Kathimerini. “There is a big difference between compensating farmers and changing your alliances.”