The veterinary services of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland discussed joint activities to halt the spread of ASF, which poses a considerable threat to the countries’ pig industries, at their last meeting in July.
Lithuania had previously offered to build a 400km-long wall to eliminate the possibility of the virus spreading from Belarus via wild animals, and Poland suggested the construction of a single wall, which would effectively cut Eastern Europe in half.
“We are following an example that has already been tried in the EU by Bulgaria. Three years ago, this country fought against the risk of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease carried by wild animals with special barriers on the border with Turkey. According to experts, that measure really prevented the spread of the disease,” said a spokesperson from the veterinary services of Poland.
The issue of money
The three countries hope to fund construction of the wall with money from the EU. Lithuania has already asked the European Commission to allocate €3.5m for the construction of the wall, and has now asked for a further €13.5m. Poland has filed a similar request. According to the rough estimates of experts, the construction of the wall, as well as related activities, could cost the EU up to €60m.
“Lithuania has had presidency of the EU and Council of Europe since 1 July, so the last thing authorities need is an outbreak of ASF at this time,” said a source in the Ministry of Agriculture of Lithuania, who wished to remain anonymous.
“If the epidemic spreads, and causes a collapse in pork exports from the EU, Lithuania’s image would be ruined for decades. And now, with the worries around ASF in Belarus, we could quickly get subsidies from Brussels. And if trouble comes, we can always blame Belarus.”
However, the EU is still lacking enthusiasm for the initiative. In response to the Polish request for assistance, European Commission representative Frederic Vincent said: “First we need to check whether it [the threat] is real, as we will have to build hundreds of miles of fences.”