The EU’s trade with Russia has dropped to its lowest levels since the start of the war in Ukraine, with Russia’s share in EU imports and exports now below the 2% mark, according to the EU’s statistical office Eurostat.
The latest data shows that while 9.6% of EU imports came from Russia in February 2022, when the invasion of Ukraine began, the figure had dropped to 1.7% in June of this year. The share of EU exports to Russia fell from 3.8 % to 1.4% in the same period.
The statistics suggest that the EU’s trade sanctions are having their desired impact and are severely restricting the movement of goods.
The value of EU sanctions since the beginning of the war amounted to €43.9 billion in exported goods and €91.2 in imported goods, according to the European Commission.
Trade deficit down
At the start of the invasion, the EU’s trade deficit with Russia was temporarily augmented as energy prices peaked, with the value of EU imports to Russia exceeding exports by €18.5 billion in March 2022. This figure stood at only €0.4 billion in June 2023, slightly up from its low of €0.1 in March this year.
The pronounced decline in imports has been driven by EU efforts to wean itself off Russian energy products, with the trade deficit for energy products dropping from €40.4 billion in the second quarter of 2022 to just €5.7 billion in the second quarter of 2023.
Shares of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum oil imported into the EU from Russia have substantially decreased.
A European Commission spokesperson said Thursday that the EU had slashed its share of natural gas imports from Russia from 24% in 2022 to just 15% in the first half of 2023.
Despite this, a Global Witness report revealed Wednesday that the amount of liquified natural gas imported into the EU from Russia between January and July this year was up by 39.5% compared to the same period in 2021, suggesting the EU continues to rely on Russia for the liquid alternative to pipeline gas.
Meanwhile, the EU has facilitated the export of Ukrainian products – including valuable grain essential for food production worldwide – out of the war-torn country through so-called Solidarity lanes as its Black Sea ports are blocked by Russia.
The initiative was boosted by a special trade regime that exempted a wide range of Ukrainian exports from tariffs and duties.
Between May 2022 and the end of July this year, the EU’s Solidarity Lanes have allowed 88 million tonnes of goods worth €35 billion to move from Ukraine, including nearly 49 million tonnes in agricultural products such as grain.
But the EU’s move has caused a glut in grain supplies in so-called frontline EU countries bordering Ukraine – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania – driving down prices and undermining the profitability of local farmers. A temporary banon the temporary sale of Ukrainian cereals in these countries is set to expire on September 15.