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Wine as Political Instrument

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Monday, July 23
Last week Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare of Russia – “Rospotrebnadzor” released a statement according to which, Russia will soon begin to control the quality of imported Georgian wine. The statement reads that the quality of Georgian alcoholic beverages exported to Russia in the first half of 2018 does not comply with technical regulations and the law on user rights. Due to these violations, Russia banned 16 thousand liters of Georgian alcohol.

National Wine Agency of Georgia responded to the accusations: “One of the main objectives of the National Wine Agency's activities is the promotion and control of high quality Georgian wine."

The statement also clarifies that beginning January 1, 2017, based on the law, all categories of exported wine is subjected to obligatory degustation.

The Special Representative of the prime minister of Georgia for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze stated in his interview with “Netgazeti” that he doesn’t want to relate the Rospotrebnadzor’s statement to politics: “I do not want to see a political motive. I think the National Wine Agency's statement is highly qualified and precisely explained how the quality of exported wine is controlled. These procedures are in accordance with the international standards," - Abashidze said in the interview with Netgazeti.

Despite Abashidze's statement, it should be noted that manipulation with the quality of Georgian products is not a new phenomenon for Russia.
- 2006- Russia "punished" Georgia for its pro-western aspirations and banned the import of all kinds of Georgian agricultural products. The official reason for this decision was named to be low quality of Georgian products. Only 7 years later, in June 2013, the export of Georgian wine and cognac was restored in Russia. However, it was not "an act of kindness". In 2013, Russia has joined the World Trade Organization - WTO, which puts all members in same conditions. Since Georgia was the member of WTO before Russia joined it, Russia was forced to withdraw embargo for Georgia.
- In 2014, after the signing the Association Agreement with the European Union, with the motive to protect Russia from low quality imported products- Russian political elites started discussions about the embargo on Georgia.
- In 2015, Russia claimed that in response to anti-Russian sanctions, Russia would impose embargo on the states that joined these sanctions. In parallel with this statement, Rospotrebnadzor stated that part of Georgian products did not meet requirements.
- In 2018, two weeks after the NATO Brussels summit, where the Alliance once again confirmed that Georgia will become a NATO member, Rospotrebnadzor started talking about the low quality of Georgian wine again.