Milk, Politics and other Perceptions

Since the early days of this year’s October, Russia has been imposing restrictions on imports of dairy products from Lithuania. Gennady Onishchenko, the chief of the Russian consumer protection service Rospotrebnadzor, has officially declared that some of the Lithuanian products failed to meet the requirements of quality and adequate safety. However, the officials of Lithuania and the European Union consider this type of action as a well-planned political move and raise an inevitable question – what are the possible reasons of Russia’s sudden economic policy change?

Russia aimed to declare its power by economic means also earlier in the past. For example, in 2009 Lithuania faced similar restrictions related to milk and cheese products. However, this time Russia declared even more serious actions. Four of the largest Lithuanian dairy companies – “Rokiškio sūris“, ‘‘Pieno žvaigždės‘‘, ‘‘Žemaitijos pienas‘‘ and Vilkyškių creamery, which receive approximately about 40 percent of their income through trade in Russia – cannot export their products to its large neighbor due to the recently announced economic blockade. Consequently, as these companies stopped exporting their goods, the prices of dairy products in the domestic Lithuanian market began to rise. Furthermore, it is relevant to note that dairy industry is a vital source of Lithuanian export since it constitutes the benefit of agricultural production. So it is accurate that Russia’s economic restrictions may have really painful consequences for the Lithuania’s market.

In response, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, has underlined that since Russia did not indicate any evaluated reasons of this sudden ban, the decisions which were made in order to restrict Lithuania’s export are truly political rather than economic. The ban might be associated with Lithuania’s aspiration to get even closer with the European Union and to draw attention to Moscow’s impositions on eastern European countries. For instance, during the upcoming November summit in Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Ukraine and Moldova are planning to sign certain agreements which will be linked to landmark associations and free trade. This fact may imply that Russia’s actions can be considered as a form of protest against the European integration of ex-Soviet countries.

Is Russia protesting against European integration of ex-Soviet states through economic policy?

As well as the leaders of Lithuania, the European Commission has also noted that there is an absence of information constituting the official facts of why exactly Lithuania’s dairy products were declared as inappropriate. Russia’s activity was announced as unnecessary, especially when there are no complaints expressed from other countries to which Lithuania export its dairy products.

However, there are other important considerations. Even though Russia’s prohibition towards Lithuanian export products might be associated with the fact that Lithuania holds the presidency of the European Union, some specialists might claim that it has nothing to do with the economic policy performed by the officials in Moscow.  Russia is trying to be more open to the global forces and this fact is proved by the expansion of Russia’s economic relations. Therefore, the causes and the outcomes of this particular ban remain highly debatable.

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