On 15 August, the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU met in Brussels to discuss the ongoing crisis in Eastern Ukraine. In its conclusions on Ukraine, the EU noted that that the “grounds for the imposition of restrictive measures against the Russian Federation remain valid”, and proceeded to make the following statements:
The EU urged Russian forces to withdraw from the Ukrainian border, cease the cross-border flow of arms and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to civilians in certain conflict zones.
The EU announced that it “regrets” the embargo imposed by Russia on imports of certain agricultural produce originating in the EU. An extraordinary meeting of the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council has been convened for early September to assess the impact of Russia’s actions.
The EU also announced that it expects the international community to refrain from exploiting trade opportunities with Russia. In particular, EU-candidate countries are expected to “refrain from measures which are aimed at exploiting new trading opportunities”. Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic reportedly received an aide-memoire from an EU official based in Belgrade, urging Serbia not to increase its exports to Russia. In response, Vucic announced that whilst Serbia would not impose sanctions on Russia or halt exports, it would not actively subsidise exports.
Serbia has also put measures in place to ensure that its market will not be used as a trading hub for agricultural exports from the EU into Russia in an attempt to circumvent Russia’s sanctions. Serbia’s Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic, stated that “our customs services will increase their activity and the producers or exporters who try to cheat their way to profit will be severely punished“.
For more information, and for an analysis of contractual and non-contractual legal issues that may arise as a result of Russia’s counter-sanctions, please see our Client Update of 8 August.