Is France ready to lift sanctions against Russia?

Is France ready to lift sanctions against Russia?

France intends to discuss the issue of withdrawal of the Russian food embargo on February 13th. The meeting will be attended by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the official representative of the French Government, Minister of Agriculture, Stephane Le Fol, said.

This morning Manuel Valls, Stephane Le Fol and French Economy and Industry minister Emmanuel Macron met in Paris with representatives of large retail chains - Carrefour, Casino, Auchan, Cora, Intermarche, Lidl and Systeme U. "The European Commission should step up its forces, because it has "done too little, too late so far," Le Fol added.

At the meeting, they discussed the work of retail chains on emergency measures to support agricultural producers. Since the summer of 2015, industry workers have proposed a significant increase in purchasing prices for meat and dairy products and an increase in state aid programs. The authorities admitted that the Russian food embargo has had a negative impact on the French market of pork.

A research fellow at the center for agrarian and food policy at RANEPA, Vasily Uzun, said in an interview with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza that the possibility that France will lift the anti-Russian sanctions exists, but the expert expressed doubt in it. "Unlike Russia, which is a member of the EEU, but took the decision to impose an embargo on their own, France did not take an independent decision, it was an agreed solution with all EU countries. So we can lift the embargo without consulting and France is unlikely to lift it without asking the EU," the expert said.

Answering a question whether French farmers will be able to regain their former positions on the Russian food market, Vasily Uzun suggested that it is possible, but it will be very slow, because French distributors have already found other channels and concluded appropriate agreements.

"There is no free space, especially in the face of falling incomes and falling demand, but in principle, a return is possible. Rapid changes can be expected in the sector of luxury products," a research fellow at the center for agrarian and food policy at RANEPA explained.

 "If there was a decline in production due to the Russian embargo, French distributors will attack the Russian market, trying to get back by increasing their production. So I do not think that there are people who have waited for the abolition of the Russian embargo for 1.5-2 years," Vasili Uzun concluded.

A senior research officer of the Center for European Studies (University) at the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Olenchenko, stressed that France has never initiated the Eastern Partnership program, which resulted in the Ukrainian crisis. "French people, like the Italians, initially offered to invite Russia to discuss the Eastern Partnership. But the idea was not supported. Paris does not receive any economic benefits from Kiev, but carries significant losses from non-realization of its economic potential with Moscow," the expert said.

However, he emphasized that the current French government, including the Minister of Agriculture, are really interested in the development. "Therefore it's quite natural that Paris initiated this issue. That is, France assumes the role of mouthpiece on behalf of the leading countries of Europe – Germany, Italy and Holland. Firstly, we are talking about the national interest, since the Ukrainian crisis prevents the realisation of the potential of traditional Russian-French relations, and secondly, France can be regarded as a country which expresses the general European opinion," the analyst explained.

Speaking about the readiness of France to lift sanctions against Russia, he pointed out that two of the three leading forces of the country have advocated the normalization of relations with Russia from the very beginning. "The National Front and Republicans have advocated the normalization of relations with Russia from the very beginning. This is an aspect which should be considered. And the current political leadership of France takes it into account. Another issue is that the sanctions were introduced by the European Union, not just by France. A closer examination of this issue will be held at the summer summit of the EU. And I think that France reflects a common European view, just preparing  everyone for the abolition of sanctions at the summit," Vladimir Olenchenko concluded.