EU explains sanctions policy on Russia amid African nations’ food concerns
Luxembourg City, Jun 20 (EFE).- The European Union’s foreign policy chief said Monday he has sent letters to all African foreign affairs ministers explaining the sanctions the 27-nation bloc has adopted in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.
In those letters, he clarified that those sanctions, including severe import restrictions on products such as Russian crude oil, coal, steel and iron do not affect exports of Russian food or fertilizer to non-EU countries.
“We are listening to the concerns of some African leaders about the consequences of our sanctions. I informed my colleagues, (the EU foreign) ministers, that I have sent a letter to all African foreign affairs ministers explaining how our sanctions are being tailored – how they work, whom they affect, what can be allowed under the sanctions or not,” Josep Borrell said at a press conference at the end of a Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
The EU foreign ministers mainly discussed the food crisis generated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
That military operation has triggered energy and food price hikes, while a Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports threatens regions such as the Middle East and Africa that depend on them to a significant degree to feed their populations.
“Russia is blocking Ukrainian exports. Not us, Russia. Russia is destroying (Ukrainian) ports and destroying food stocks, destroying transport infrastructure. Russia, not us. And that has sparked a global food crisis,” Borrell said.
“When more than 20 million (tons) of grains are being blocked in Ukrainian storage (facilities), and someone is preventing this food from reaching the consumers, some will suffer (from) hunger.”
Borrell, however, said the EU is willing to “study any case in which something wrong happens from the point of view of the economic actors.”
“The sanctions against Belarus taken before the war on the export of potash can affect the dissemination of this product around the world,” he acknowledged. “But our sanctions are not responsible for the food and fertilizers’ trade in the world, because we only take decisions that affect the European Union member states, not third countries.”
Borrell also accused Russia of using food as a “war weapon,” saying it is a deliberate attempt to create hunger in the world and thereby exert pressure on the European Union, Ukraine and the rest of the world.
Separately, the ministers expressed broad support for granting Ukraine and Moldova – both ex-Soviet republics – the status of candidate for European Union membership, as the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, recommended last Friday.
The decision to accept those candidacies must be taken by the heads of state and government of the EU countries at a meeting on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.
Borrell said he is convinced those leaders will give the green light because he has not heard any voices opposed to the idea.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi communicated their explicit support for Ukrainian EU candidate status when they met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their surprise visit to Kyiv last Thursday.
Candidacy approval would not guarantee future EU membership for Ukraine and Moldova, which would first need to undertake reforms to meet the bloc’s anti-corruption and democracy standards. EFE