When Pigs Fly

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” So said Sir Winston Churchill. For George Orwell, in Animal Farm, the pigs served as a warning against communist revolution. Having removed the farmer for the good of all animals, it did not take the pigs very long to reduce the Seven Commandments of Animalism to the single chilling phrase: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Today Polish pigs are, for the time being, less equal than others.

Belarus has now followed Russia’s embargo on EU pork by suspending all of its imports of Polish pork products following an outbreak of African swine fever. On Tuesday Poland’s Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed that a boar that had died from the virus had been discovered near the village of Grzybowszczyzna, about 900 metres from the Belarusian border. The first instance of the virus was discovered in Lithuania a month ago, also near the Belarusian border. During a meeting of EU agricultural ministers in Brussels earlier this week, the EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg argued that the findings indicate that the outbreak did not occur on EU territory. “The fact that the three cases which have been found have been on the border with Belarus indicates that this was imported from the East,” He said that it was even more unjust that there should be this ban when the disease came from outside the EU – indeed from the very country which is imposing the ban. Borg said that at the very most, the ban should only relate to those countries where the virus had been detected, arguing that an EU-wide ban was disproportionate. He also said he was considering taking the matter to the World Trade Organization because Russia’s stance is in violation of WTO legislation and rules although he hoped that “we can find an easier solution through a reasonable exchange of views.”

Which is nice. Because there is nothing more that President Putin and those thoroughly decent folk who make up the governments of Belarus and Ukraine respect more than a reasonable exchange of views. Which is why the EU policy to deal with the crisis in the Ukraine has been so outstandingly successful. All those tweets, all those meetings in Brussels, all those demands that President Yanokovich be nice to the opposition, all those expressions of regret and urging of restraint, those endless warnings that sanctions were about to make their way onto one of Baroness Ashton’s agendas (somewhere between the menu for lunch and last month’s expense claims, no doubt) have clearly had an effect.

Faced with the continuing suspense of waiting for the EU actually to do something, such as choosing from “the entire palette of sanctions at its disposal,” to quote the Polish foreign minister (who, to be fair, has actually flown Kiev, with French and German foreign ministers) Yanokovich has clearly had enough. Sikorski’s statement that “all decisions will be made following a cool analysis of the situation,” must have been the last straw. He has decided to go …… and issue the police with more guns and ammunition so that live ammunition can be added to the mix.

Sikorski is right about one thing: “The outside world has very little influence, when a state decides to use violence, but this will certainly not pass without consequences”. Perhaps, but Yanokovich seems determined to hang on until the next election. And ironically, however imperfect the last presidential elections in the Ukraine may have been, Yanokovich was elected which is more than can be said for Baroness Ashton, Barosso and the rest as they weep crocodile tears from Brussels. After all, the EU only removes wholly democratically elected governments (Greece, Italy) to save banks, not repressive governments to save lives.

As Yanokovich surveys the flames and asks: should I fear the EU, comes the answer loud and clear: when pigs fly.

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