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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Ban on EU Meat Averted

Russia agreed Tuesday to keep European Union meat flowing into the country after long threatening to ban imports from the trade bloc -- at the expense of two soon-to-be EU members.

The deal, which was hammered out by Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev and Markos Kyprianou, the European Union's health and consumer protection commissioner, stipulates that meat from Bulgaria and Romania will not be part of EU imports.

It also narrowly averts a cessation of the flow of meat from the EU to Russia. Russia had threatened to impose a ban on EU meat starting Jan. 1, when Bulgaria and Romania are slated to join the EU.

Russian officials had voiced fears that meat coming from Bulgaria and Romania, both former communist states that had been Soviet satellites, was contaminated.

The announcement that a deal had been reached came at a news conference that followed a meeting in Moscow attended by Gordeyev, Kyprianou and Sergei Dankvert, head of the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetarian Sanitary Supervision.

"Considering that the EU and Russia have similarly high standards in product safety and veterinary well-being, we accept the fact that the banned meat will not come into Russia through third countries that are European Union members," Gordeyev said.

That additional provision means Russia expects that EU members besides Bulgaria and Romania will not import meat from those two countries and then sell that meat to Russia.

Kyprianou said of the agreement: "The aim was to reduce and minimize any possible risk and to provide for uninterrupted trade between Russia and the European Union. The result sends a positive signal to Russian and European meat producers and consumers."

Moscow also refuses to end a year-old ban on meat imports from Poland, also an EU member. Kyprianou said the Polish ban did not come up at Tuesday's meeting. That issue, he said, "is still on the table."

The ban on EU meat, dairy and fish imports would have interrupted $2.25 billion in annual trade, according to European Commission figures.

Earlier this month, Russia sought unsuccessfully to forge bilateral deals over meat imports with individual EU nations.

Before leaving, Kyprianou made it clear that bilateral agreements were out of the question. "In recent days, the Commission president, myself and the member states have made it clear that exports of animal products from the EU are an area of community competence, and bilateral agreements cannot be envisaged," Kyprianou said before leaving for Russia, a statement issued by the EU said. "We welcome the fact that no member state has agreed to sign such a deal."

Lenit Shopov, head of the Bulgarian Embassy's Council of Trade and Economic Affairs, declined to comment late Tuesday. He added that no one else was available to speak because of a Christmas party taking place at the embassy.

A Romanian Embassy spokesman declined to comment.

Gordeyev told Kyprianou, who is Greek, that he routinely vacations in Greece.