Estonia 'not surprised' by Russian sanctions against EU

ANKARA - Estonia, Russia's Baltic neighbor, has a lot of experience in Russia’s failure to comply with the rules of free economy and trade, according to the Estonian finance minister.

"Estonia as well as other European nations have ample experience of how the Russian government has failed to respect the rules of free economy and trade and has hindered the functioning of these rules by setting political obstacles"  Jürgen Ligi, Estonian Minister of Finance told the Anadolu Agency.

U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia’s energy and finance sectors lead to Russia imposing a ban on beef, fruit, vegetables, fish, milk, cheese and dairy products from the EU, U.S., Canada, Norway and Australia in August.

"In 1995, the Russian government imposed double customs tariffs on imports against Estonia in the hope of damaging the development of the Estonian economy and obstructing political developments” he said. “The imposition of punitive tariffs then was in spite of the fact that Estonia had recently sworn in a new cabinet which had promised to prioritize the relationship with Russia."

"Later, we’ve had to endure setbacks due to both the instability of the Russian economy as well as the ruble and administrative interference on political grounds. Nobody believes that the quality of Russian goods or the official standards set to goods for sale in the Russian market are higher than those in Europe" he said.

He added that, the access of different goods from different countries to the Russian market is being blocked regularly. He noted that, within the last six months before the imposition of the embargo on foodstuffs from the EU by the Russian government, the authorities had stopped the imports of several categories of agricultural produce, including from Estonia.

Three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, sell an extensive part of their food products to Russia. 16 percent of Estonian exports went to Russia last year and it was 20 percent for Lithuania, 16 percent for Latvia, according to figures from Eurostat.

"The Estonian government has been obliged to warn our exporters of the risks of Russia instead of rewarding them with state aid. Currently, the Estonian government is helping to find new markets for Estonian foodstuffs to replace the Russian market." he said. "Taking into account the damage that the Russian government keeps inflicting on the Russian economy, the exchange rate of the ruble and the economy’s consumption capacity, it is clear that the import capacity of Russia can only fall."

He said that, the Russian leader’s obsession with creating local production, financial and other facilities will not work in today’s economy and the local public opinion does not leave much hope that Russian governments are ready to change much.

According to the International Energy Agency, the EU made a study to build a regional LNG terminal between Finland and Estonia to satisfy regional gas demand. Estonia, imports almost all of its natural gas from Russia as well as its neighbors, Lithuania and Latvia. Estonia and Baltic countries will face negotiations and decisions for this terminal and more gas projects.

The Ministry of Finance in Estonia reduced the economic growth forecast to 0.5 percent for this year and 2.5 percent for next year. This new forecast considers the war between Russia and Ukraine.

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