Russia to lift EU vegetable ban
“We are ready to lift the ban on European vegetables after we are provided with sufficient guarantees by the EU. That much is certain. The Russian and the European health officials are finalizing a certificate that proves the safety of the supplied products – this is a good result,” Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said at the closing news conference of the 27th Russia-EU summit in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.
The breakthrough in the vegetable ban negotiations was announced earlier on Friday by Russia’s Chief Sanitary Doctor Gennady Onischenko on the sidelines of the summit. The dates of the first imports have not been specified. Onischenko stressed the imports will restart after all the requirements are settled and the EU prepares the necessary documents.
“The warrant will notify that the lot has been examined and the infectious agent has not been found,” said Gennady Onischenko. These warrants will imply laboratory tests for every lot of vegetables meant for import into Russia.
The EU will also hand over the strains of the E. coli bacteria to the Russian authorities.
Russia is still worried that the actual and final place of the infection’s source and containment have not yet been named by the EU, while the outbreak of E. coli has already killed 29 and sickened nearly 3,000 people in Europe.
The import ban on EU vegetables, imposed by Russia on June 2 after the outbreak of the deadly infection, will be further negotiated by the European Commission and Russia’s Federal Service of Consumers Goods Surveillance.
Also on Friday, Reinhard Burger, the president of the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, told AP that investigators have determined that locally-grown vegetable sprouts are the cause of the European E. coli outbreak.
The institute is lifting its warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce but keeping the warning in place for sprouts, Burger said.
EU and Russia agree Gaddafi must go
Speaking about Libya, the participants expressed their joint position that Gaddafi should leave his post so that a democratic process can begin in the North African country. President Medvedev stressed again that an unconditional ceasefire should take place immediately. Russia now sees its task as a mediator in the conflict that unwound in the North African country with Gaddafi and the rebels dividing Libya into two parts with the corresponding strongholds in Tripoli and Benghazi.
“Certainly, there have been discussions of the possibility that Gaddafi could go. But it’s an ‘if’ and it is a large ‘if’. One of the big challenges and questions is how to make sure for the people of Libya the way in which he goes and assuredness of that departure is a fundamental part of moving forward. That is for them to decide in conjunction with the role of the UN Special Envoy,” EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in her interview with RT.
The summit format permitted discussion of various hot topics such as visa-free travel, global economy and Russia entering the World Trade Organization by the end of 2011. Both sides admitted that they have made the best progress in relations in recent decades, but President Medvedev and EU representatives agreed that a lot of work is still ahead.