, BRUSSELS, Oct 7 – The European Commission called on Russia Monday not to overreact after Moscow banned dairy imports from EU member Lithuania, a former Soviet state.
Amid speculation Moscow’s move is motivated by political concerns rather than the health issues cited, the Commission said it “has confidence in the safety of Lithuanian dairy products.”
In line with its World Trade Organization commitments, Russia must ensure that any action “be justified by a demonstration of the risk … and the measure taken must be proportionate to the level of risk identified,” said Frederic Vincent, spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg.
The EU “believes that certain Russian standards are unnecessarily strict and go beyond what is scientifically necessary” to protect consumers, Vincent said in a statement.
Russia has not yet officially confirmed a breach of its safety standards, he noted, adding that EU rules “ensure a high level of consumer protection.”
Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Vigilijus Jukna said separately Monday that Moscow had not as yet formally informed Vilnius of the import ban.
Lithuania, which holds the current rotating European Union presidency, has urged EU member states to respond to the tough customs checks Russia has imposed on Eastern European countries seeking closer ties with Brussels.
Chief among them is Ukraine, which hopes to sign a landmark association and free trade agreement with the EU during an ‘Eastern Partnership’ summit next month in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Russia said over the weekend that it would impose only a partial ban on Lithuanian dairy imports and Monday’s decision was tougher than expected.
An unidentified Russian source also told the Prime news agency that Moscow was “strengthening control” over the import of Lithuanian fish and meat.
Moscow has frequently been accused of using import restrictions as a weapon against ex-Soviet countries seeking greater independence or warmer relations with the West.