Despite protests from farmers and threats from Poland and Hungary, the EU Commission is allowing controversial trade restrictions on Ukrainian goods to expire. Poland reacted promptly to the decision.
The EU Commission is ending the controversial trade restrictions on Ukrainian grain products. The authority is thus opposing demands from EU states such as Poland and Hungary, which had previously restricted corresponding imports themselves, according to information from the EU Commission.
Germany had viewed the measures very critically in the past. Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) repeatedly emphasized in Brussels that solidarity with Ukraine not only had to be promised, but also lived.
The reaction from Poland was prompt: Shortly after the decision was announced, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that they wanted to stick to the restrictions even without Brussels’ approval. “We will do it because it is in the interests of Polish farmers.” Although the EU Commission had previously repeatedly emphasized that it was responsible for trade policy in the EU, Poland had been threatening to maintain measures independently for weeks. In Poland, the dispute over Ukrainian goods has also become an election campaign issue. A new parliament will be elected there on October 15th.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban made similar statements. There was also criticism of the increased imports from Ukraine in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. Within the EU Commission, Polish Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski had also spoken out in favor of extending the restrictions.
After the decision, EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis emphasized: “We currently see no market distortions in these five member states.” The previous restrictions had allowed the eastern EU members Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria to restrict the free trade of products such as wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflowers from Ukraine on their markets.
Zelensky thanks von der Leyen
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj thanked von der Leyen for suspending trade restrictions after a phone call. Zelensky wrote on Telegram on Friday that he was happy that the head of the EU Commission stood by her word and defended the rules of the market. It is important that European solidarity now also works on a bilateral level and that Ukraine’s neighbors help Ukraine in times of war, he warned. If decisions by neighbors violate EU law, Ukraine will respond in a civilized manner.
On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke out against the restrictions. No form of maintaining the measures is acceptable, Kuleba wrote on the online platform X (formerly Twitter). Because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, grain exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea could no longer reach the world market for a time.
Deliveries across the Black Sea are still risky at the moment. In mid-July, Russia suspended an agreement on grain deliveries, although the United Nations believes it is important for the world’s secure food supply.
In view of the difficulties, the EU had expanded trade routes, for example by road and rail, between Ukraine and the states of the European Union. As a result, farmers from eastern EU countries faced great competition from the sharp increase in imports, which led to countries such as Poland and Hungary independently restricting the import of certain goods.
Expansion of trade routes is now sufficient
The EU Commission then introduced a uniform regulation and decided at the beginning of June to extend the restrictions until September 15th. According to Dombrovskis, the expansion of trade routes is now sufficient. One does not expect the situation to be as dramatic as it was six months ago, “when there were indeed major distortions.” However, these arose due to logistical bottlenecks. “It was simply not possible to get this grain to the countries that needed it,” said the commissioner.
As the EU Commission has now announced, Ukraine has also agreed to introduce legal measures within 30 days to prevent an increase in grain exports. From Saturday onwards there will also be increased controls on exports in order to prevent exports from having too much of an impact on EU markets.