Latvia takes over the EU presidency on January 1, 2015, significantly raising the nation’s profile at a time of high concern for the financial state of the country’s pig industry due to the dual impact of African swine fever (ASF) and the Russian ban on EU imports.
Although Latvian pig producers are currently celebrating the lifting, on January 1, of the current ASF state-of-emergency, which applies along the country’s eastern borders, the damage already done by the disease in 2014, has been severe.
The Latvian government says it has spent 4.47 million fighting ASF so far, combatting the confirmed finding of the disease this year in 202 wild boars and 72 domestic pigs. While there has been no new domestic ASF cases since September 17, the country will, under EU rules, face limitations on the transport of pork products until the end of 2018.
In addition to carrying a heavy ASF burden for the next four years, pig producers in Latvia are also suffering a 1m-a-month loss of export earnings due to having to sell product into the EU market rather than enjoying their former higher-priced sales routes into Russia.
On each count, ASF and the Russian ban, taking over the EU presidency from Italy on January 1 will give the Latvian government a challenging platform from which to balance the needs of its own producers with the greater demands of the EU.
Latvia’s Foreign Minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, has already gone on record to the effect that Latvia will be neither “anti-Russian” nor “pro-Russian” during its six-month presidency.
“It’s going to be a presidency that takes into account the views of all member states,” he said.