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Voices Against Sanctions

Voices Against The Sanctions_1
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In 2014 most European leaders unanimously agreed to impose sanctions on Russia over the situation in Ukraine. But by the end of 2016, the opposition against punitive measures in the EU member states has been growing.

It's been a tough year for the European Union. Britain voted to leave with Brexit becoming one of the biggest news stories of the year. Kiev was trying to push for closer ties between Ukraine and the UE, but the ratification of the EU-Ukraine association treaty stalled as 61 of Dutch voters said "No" during a nationwide referendum. 

Belgian Farmer: Selling Pears to Russia Was a Perfect Match - Sputnik International
Belgian Farmer: Selling Pears to Russia Was a Perfect Match
The EU's sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine also started causing more and more irritation among European politicians. Even though hardliners, led by the US, and followed by Poland, the Baltic states, Germany and France, continued to push for more punitive measures against Moscow, new voices appeared in Greece, Italy, Spain, Austria and Hungary, calling for the end of the sanction war.

In November of 2016 Donald Trump won the Presidential election in the US, which was considered by many to be a sign of possible reset in relations between Russia and the US, and since the EU often follows Washington's general line, Europe's foreign policy may eventually change its course as well.

Member of the Belgian parliament Aldo Carcaci says that People's Party, which he represents, was the only party in his country to openly support Donald Trump. 

Carcasi also says that sanctions against Russia should be abolished for a number of reasons:

Firstly, Belgian entrepreneurs are the main victims of this embargo: they cannot export anything anymore and they suffered economic losses that affected their income in 2015. Of course, they found other ways to export goods – through third countries, which sometimes means that their produce ends up in Russia, or they found other markets. Second thing is that we are the main victims, but for us it's also a big mistake – these sanctions against Russia – because Russia is our ally in fighting against ISIS, against Daesh. Russia and president Putin are our allies, our friends in the fight against Islamism and the Islamic State.

Dutch Pepper Grower: Russia Was a Growing Market - Sputnik International
Dutch Pepper Grower: Russia Was a Growing Market
Members of Belgium's other parties are more cautious, but still, some of them are critical of the ongoing sanction war between Russia and the EU.

Flemish Interest party, which has ties to US Republicans and is allied with other European patriotic movements, is currently rising in the polls. Sputnik asked the party’s executive, Brussels MP Dominiek Lootens-Stael about sanctions:

I don’t think it's a very good idea to continue those sanctions, because we punish, indeed, our farmers… So I think this problem should be solved in another way, in a diplomatic way, instead of the sanctions.

In 2014 the sanctions caught Belgian farmers by surprise. Some pear growers in the province of Flemish Brabant were ready to harvest and to sell about 30% of their produce to Russia, when the EU imposed sanctions against Moscow, and Russia retaliated by banning European food, including Belgian pears.

Aldo Carcaci says that the country's agriculture and other industries were affected:

The Cost of Sanctions for Europe’s Exporters - Sputnik International
The Cost of Sanctions for Europe's Exporters
Fruit and vegetable growers, as well as our national production companies, like those that produce hunting weapons, suffered the most. Belgian exports of hunting rifles to Russia is an industry with an annual sales value of 5 million Euros.

Europe's economic sanctions against Russia were prolonged by the EU until July 31st, 2017. They currently affect whole sectors of Russian economy, including energy, banking and defense. EU's diplomatic sanctions were imposed against 152 Russian nationals, whose assets in European banks were frozen and who are banned from entering the Union.

In December of 2016 Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Russia is prepared to cancel its ban of European goods if the EU lifts its sanctions.

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