The European Commission is challenging Russia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to justify a ban on imports of Lithuanian dairy products.
The European Union has also protested in Moscow that Russia has imposed discriminatory inspections at its border, targeting lorries carrying Lithuanian goods.
Russia announced its ban on imports of Lithuanian dairy products on 7 October, but notified the measure to the WTO only on Friday (11 October) and has so far ignored EU requests for more information. Around 20% of the Baltic republic’s exports go to Russia, worth a total of €1 billion annually.
The Commission says that it considers Lithuanian dairy products to be safe. After protests from the EU, the Russians have stopped discriminatory inspections of Lithuanian freight consignments, a Lithuanian diplomat said.
The trade dispute comes as Lithuania, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers, prepares to host a summit meeting in Vilnius between the EU and the countries of its eastern neighbourhood. At that summit, Moldova and Georgia are expected to sign an agreement to deepen co-operation between the EU and the two countries.
Lithuania is also in a bruising battle with Gazprom, a Russian state-controlled company which has the exclusive rights to export Russian gas to Europe and accounts for a significant proportion of the Russian state’s revenues.
Lithuania has filed an anti-trust complaint against Gazprom with the European Commission. In parallel, the Lithuanian government has sought to loosen Gazprom’s control of the gas transport network within Lithuania, invoking the latest EU rules on energy markets, which require gas suppliers and gas-transport companies to be separate companies. Gazprom has condemned the move as expropriation.
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DUTCH DIPLOMAT ATTACKED IN MOSCOW
Relations between the European Union and Russia worsened yesterday (16 October), after a Dutch diplomat was beaten up in his Moscow flat by unknown assailants.
After protests from the Dutch government, the Russian foreign ministry expressed “regret”.
In a statement issued yesterday (16 October), Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said that she was “aware of tensions but understands that both sides are working on resolving this”.
The incident comes less than two weeks after Dutch police raided the home of a Russian diplomat in The Hague. The Russian authorities said that the diplomat had been beaten up and accused the police of infringing diplomatic immunity. Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, apologised on 9 October.