As it was amply expected, the end of the EU ban on sale of Ukrainian grain has ignited a bitter trade dispute that is pitting the Kiev regime against some of its strongest allies in the EU.
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“Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced restrictions on imports on Friday after the European Commission decided not to extend a ban on sales into Ukraine’s five EU neighbours, which also include Romania and Bulgaria.
Ukraine retaliated by filing complaints on Monday with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, while other EU members condemned the unilateral moves.”
Poland went a step further and withdrew from a coordination platform that is looking at solutions to boost Ukraine grain transit to global markets.
“‘We have to look forward, since Ukraine said it wants to sue Poland… every comment we would have made on this platform could be used against us’, Poland Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told reporters in Brussels.
Like most countries in central and eastern Europe, Poland and Slovakia have been some of Kiev’s strongest allies in its fight against Russia’s invasion that began in February 2022. Hungary’s stance has been more ambivalent, as the only member of the EU and NATO alliance to maintain close relations with Moscow, still the main source of its oil and natural gas.”
Ukraine lost the ability to export agricultural products through its Black Sea ports, so they resorted to shipments via road, rail and barge via its neighbors.
The shipments were distorting local markets, leading the EU to approve trade restrictions.
Came September 15th, and the European Commission decided not to extend the ban. As was expected and announced, the governments of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia defied the Commission’s decision, announcing their own restrictions.
So Kiev is suing them in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“In a statement on Monday, Ukraine’s Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said that ‘it is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods. That is why we are filing lawsuits against them [Slovakia, Poland and Hungary] to the WTO.”
Poland declared it will keep its ban. Government spokesman Piotr Mueller:
“We maintain our position, we think it is correct, it results from an economic analysis and powers derived from EU and international law. A complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us.”
The three countries still allow Ukrainian grain to transit their territories to other markets.
The reaction against the bans came from the EU and western European countries. Germany took the lead criticizing the unilateral curbs on grain from Ukraine, accusing the countries of ‘cherry-picking EU policies and putting their own interests over Ukraine’.
Financial Times reported:
“The remarks by Cem Ozdemir, the German food and agriculture minister, underscored the wider ramifications of the Ukrainian grain dispute, which has posed the biggest challenge in decades to Brussels’ authority over EU trade.
His objections were echoed by Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU’s environment commissioner, who called on the three countries to rescind bans that go against the bloc’s trade policy. ‘We should remain united in our messages’, he told the Financial Times. ‘These matters are much more than just grain transit’.”
France and Spain also were vocal in their criticism of the decision.
“Marc Fesneau, the French agricultural minister, said the unilateral measures ‘call into question the single market and the common market very deeply’. Luis Planas, Spain’s agriculture minister, suggested the measures were unlawful but said it was ‘for the commission to judge’.
Meanwhile, despite the protesting, lawsuits and criticism, other countries may well adopt similar resolutions.
Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said he would extend a trade ban on Ukrainian grain ‘for 30 days, if import requests rise’.
While the Bulgarian parliament voted to lift its ban on Ukrainian grains last week, the farmers are painted for war, with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov saying that grain producers have ‘started behaving like terrorists”.
Sophia Globe reported:
“Bulgarian grain producers plan large-scale road traffic disruptions at the start of next week, with demands including the resumption of a ban on imports of various foodstuffs from Ukraine, after the ban expired as a result of decisions by the Bulgarian Parliament and the European Commission.
[…] ‘In the past two days, they started behaving like terrorists. They use false arguments, make demands now, that something should happen immediately. I do not negotiate with terrorists’, he said.”
[…] The protest planned for September 18 is intended to disrupt traffic at three border crossings with Romania. […] Plans are for the protest to move to Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia on September 19.
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