News / Europe

Russian Ties, Trade Lie Behind EU Sanctions Rift

Reuters

Germany and Italy have the most to lose if the European Union makes good on its threat to impose harsher sanctions on Moscow, while Britain's overseas territories are soaking up the lion's share of capital streaming out of Russia.

The picture emerging from United Nations and European Union data shows the impact of restricting trade with Russia would be far from even, with Germany dwarfing others' exposure and those urging sanctions loudest, such as Sweden, having less at stake.

That makes an EU plan to consider limiting Russian access to European defense and energy technology more difficult, despite pressure from the United States after the downing of a Malaysian airliner over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

Wary of antagonizing its main gas supplier, the EU has used travel bans and asset freezes so far in reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine.

Ministers agreed on Tuesday those measures may be widened if Moscow does not cooperate with an investigation into the plane crash and fails to stop weapons flowing into the country.

Limiting trade would be damaging because the 28-nation EU sold goods worth 120 billion euros ($161 billion) to Russia last year, even if that was only 7 percent of the bloc's annual exports, according to the EU statistics office Eurostat.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, accounted for one-third of sales to Russia, around 36 billion euros. Many of those goods could be restricted by sanctions: manufactured products including those used in defense and energy.

EU governments are split over tougher sanctions, largely depending on the closeness of their ties with Russia. Germany is the swing state given its position at the heart of Europe and as its weight as the EU's most populous country.

Britain, Poland and Sweden lead a group pushing for economic sanctions, and whose combined total exports to Russia are less than the size of those of Germany.

Some 6,200 German firms are active in Russia with 20 billion euros [$27 billion] of investments there, while around 300,000 German jobs are dependant on trade with Russia, according to Germany's Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

“More sanctions increase the price all of us have to pay for this conflict,” Eckhard Cordes, its chairman, told Reuters.

HeidelbergCement, which does business in Russia, echoed that sentiment and a spokesman for the company said that while it would accept sanctions, “economically there will only be losers because both sides will suffer damages”.

Still, the Baltic countries, which won their independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago, are the most vocal about the need for sanctions against Russia despite strong trade ties.

Almost three-quarters of Latvia's drinks and tobacco exports go to Russia, while Lithuania sells a third of its food and live animal there. But the Baltics are eager to diversify away from Moscow. Lithuania will join its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia in the euro zone from next year, cementing a shift westwards.

$94-Billion Money Trail

Italy is among the states most strongly resisting tougher restrictions on Russia, along with Greece and Cyprus.

Italian exports to Russia were second only to Germany's last year at nearly 11 billion euros, double those of Britain and larger than the 8 billion euros of the Netherlands, which has shifted to the pro-sanctions camp after 193 of its citizens were killed in the plane disaster.

The Netherlands, a nation of 15 million, has an outsized share of imports from Moscow and foreign direct investment flows to Russia because of its position as an oil and commodities trading hub and a tax-efficient base for offshore corporations.

Much of the Italian sales were manufactured goods, transport machinery and chemicals - the kind of sophisticated products Russia's raw materials-dominated economy needs.

“Sanctions are always a problem both for those who are subjected to them and those who impose them,” Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters in Brussels.

Italy's allies include southern European countries such as Cyprus, which stands to lose from sanctions because of the billions of euros Russian oligarchs have invested there.

Of $94 billion in outward foreign direct investment by Russian residents in 2013, $11 billion ended up in Cyprus, according to U.N. and World Trade Organization data.

Cyprus, where light regulation and cultural ties through Orthodox Christianity have long attracted the capital and savings of Russians, was only second to the British Virgin Islands, which took in $61.7 billion last year.

Wealthy Russians took a hit when the euro zone imposed losses on big bank depositors in return for a 10 billion euro bailout of Cyprus last year after a banking meltdown.

 

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs