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    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jean-Claude Juncker

    Brussels Chief Urges Europe to Soften Line on Russia, Shuns US Pressure

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    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for Europe to take a different approach towards Russia over the Ukraine crisis as he conceded EU countries were being hit hard by the Russian counter-sanctions.

    Juncker told journalists that it should not blindly follow the Washington narrative, which has hardened against Moscow since Russia began its intervention to support its long-time ally Bashar al-Assad.

    "Russia must be treated decently. We can't let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington."

    "I know from my conversations with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that he (does not accept) phrases like when Barack Obama said Russia was a regional power. What does that mean? You can't talk about Russia like that."

    "We must make efforts towards a practical relationship with Russia," he said.

    "It is not sexy but that must be the case, we can't go on like this."

    The West imposed sanctions against Russia after Ukraine was plunged into civil war when the new Kiev authorities, which came to power as a result of a coup, launched a military operation against independence supporters in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

    West Hit by Russia Import Ban

    The EU banned imports originating from Crimea and Sevastopol unless accompanied by a certificate of origin from the Ukrainian authorities and outlawed investment in Crimea or Sevastopol. It also placed financial sanctions on five major state-owned Russian banks, three major Russia energy companies and three major Russian defence companies.

    In return, Russia banned the import of most foods from the United States, Canada, Norway, Australia and the 28 member states of the European Union. The ban includes meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. It later extended the ban to Albania, Montenegro, Liechtenstein and Iceland. 

    The ban has hit European countries very badly — particularly farmers and fishermen. Iceland bore the brunt of the fish ban as its exports to Russia were worth US$232 million of mostly seafood to Russia in 2014.

    According to EU figures, overall EU agri-food exports to Russia between August 2014 and July 2015 decreased from US$12.5 billion to US$7.2 billion, a drop of 43 percent.

    The banned products represent 4.2 percent of all EU agri-food exports, with some sectors being more heavily affected, 29 percent of EU fruits and vegetables, 33% of cheese, and 28 percent of butter.

    The dairy industry has been hit the hardest, as the ban has led to an over-supply of milk, which has depressed the price so much that the sale price has fallen below the price of production, leading to some going out of business and to mass demonstrations in various cities in Europe.

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    Tags:
    anti-Russian sentiment, economic losses, counter-sanctions, food imports, anti-Russian sanctions, imports, exports, ban, sanctions, European Commission, European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe, Russia
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