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EU pressed to up aid to farmers hit by Russia sanctions

05 september 2014, 14:10

 The European Parliament ratcheted up the pressure on the European Union Thursday to increase support for farmers hit by a Russian ban on food exports over the Ukraine crisis, AFP reports.

Leading the calls for aid were members of parliament from the Baltic states, Finland and Poland, the countries that are most affected because of their dependence on the Russian market for their milk and other products.

The appeals come on the eve of an emergency meeting of European agricultural ministers.

"The EU must alleviate the distress of farmers to avoid huge losses," said Liberal MEP Olli Rehn, the former commissioner of economic affairs, stressing the need for "solidarity".

The Russian embargo, announced in early August, came in retaliation against US and European sanctions over Moscow's alleged role in separatist violence in eastern Ukraine.

Polish conservative Jaroslaw Kalinowski urged the 28 member states to dip into an emergency fund for farmers set at around 430 million euros annually.

But a European source said on condition of anonymity that such aid is no longer planned because the 175 million euros (226 million dollars) in support measures already taken by the commission should be paid out of the 2015 agricultural budget.

The source's figure was higher than the 125 million euros announced by the European Commission last month to cover tomatoes, carrots white cabbage, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers, as well as mushrooms, apples, pears, berries, grapes.

The aid, effective from mid-late August until November, mainly involves withdrawing products from the EU market in a bid to prop up prices.

French member of the European parliament Michel Dantin called for increasing the Common Agriculture Policy budget despite the current EU rejection of such an option.

British Eurodeputy Diane Dodds called for reducing export subsidies, which were gradually phased out in the last few years.

A diplomat said her call is also being echoed by several members states, even if it is not on the agenda for now.

The European source said the ministers meeting Friday were set to explore the tools available to them to help farmers while trying not to "overreact" to the sanctions whose real impact will not be felt for a few months.

Set to last for a year, the Russian ban covers imports of meats, fruits and vegetables, fish, and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

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