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President European Council visits Moscow

The European position on the sanctions against Russia is coming apart at the seams. It is known that some member states are opponents of the sanctions, but now one of those countries has become the President of the European Council. Slovakia took over the presidency from the Netherlands several months ago. The country had already suggested at that time that they wanted a debate about the progress of the sanctions. However, last week Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, travelled to Moscow to visit President Putin.

Slovakian Prime Minister and President of the European Council Robert Fico, left, visited Russian President Putin, right. Source: Kremlin

During the visit both ministers spoke about the hope that the relationship between the EU and Russia would improve. Though Fico also took the opportunity to ask for Putin’s support for the candidacy of the Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs for the post of UN chairman.

Czech President Milos Zeman also opposed the sanctions. He did so in a speech during the opening of an annual agricultural event. “The sanctions are a sign of helplessness. The Czech Republic must adopt a clear position within the European Council, and join those countries that want to lift the sanctions,” said the president.

However, German Chancellor Merkel will hold to maintaining the sanctions. During an interview with television channel ARD, she said the time is not yet ripe to lift the sanctions. “Unfortunately not, considering the speed with which the Minsk accords are being executed,” said Merkel.

Air travel to Turkey allowed again
Russian Prime Minister Medvedev signed a decree to lift the boycott on flights to Turkey. By doing so, Russia has made the first step in lifting the sanctions the country implemented against Turkey.

Moldavia increases export
According to official figures of Moldavian authorities, the country saw the export of agricultural products increase significantly. Fruit export doubled. At the start of August, 108,000 tonnes were exported compared with 59,000 tonnes the year before. The export of table grapes increased from 4,800 tonnes in 2015 to 11,500 tonnes this year. However, the vegetable export showed a sharp decrease: from 12,500 tonnes in 2015 to 2,300 tonnes this year.

Kyrgyz sector problematic
Despite fine words from the government, the agricultural sector of Kyrgyzstan has been in decline since independence was declared 25 years ago. Since 1991, 850 million dollars has been pumped into the sector, but the problems have still not been solved. The country can barely export due to problems with certificates, among other things. At present, the country is a net importer. According to official figures, the country has a production of one million tonnes of vegetables and 500,000 tonnes of fruit. The cultivators could produce more, but the market for that does not exist.

Annually, about 50,000 to 70,000 tonnes of apricots are harvested. Of those, 20 per cent are consumed fresh, the rest is processed. The largest part, 85 per cent, is exported. Tajikistan is an especially large buyer. The situation for apples, strawberries and raspberries is similar. Production is at 255,000 tonnes of apples, 36 per cent of which ends up as fodder. Of the 4,000 tonnes of raspberries and 5,000 tonnes of strawberries, only a small percentage is processed.
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