- The European Commission decides not to extend the ban
- Five countries were allowed to ban Ukrainian grain sales
BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) – The governments of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary said on Friday they would impose their own restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports, after the European Commission decided not to extend an embargo affecting Ukraine’s five EU neighbours.
Restrictions imposed by the European Union in May allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflowers, while allowing these shipments to transit for export elsewhere.
“We will extend this ban despite their disagreement, despite the European Commission’s disagreement,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a crowd in the northeastern town of Elk. “We will do this because it is in the interest of the Polish farmer.”
Polish Development Minister Waldemar Buda said in a post on the social media platform
Hungary has imposed a national ban on the import of 24 Ukrainian agricultural products, including grains, vegetables, several meat products and honey, according to a government decree published on Friday.
The Slovak Agriculture Minister followed suit and announced his own grain ban. All three bans apply only to domestic imports and do not affect transit to foreign markets.
European Union appeal
EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said on Friday that countries should refrain from taking unilateral measures against Ukrainian grain imports. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country would respond in a “civilized manner” if EU members violated the rules.
The European Union created alternative land routes, called solidarity corridors, for Ukraine to use to export grains and oilseeds after Russia, which invaded the country in 2022, withdrew from a UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal in July, which allowed safe passage to Europe. Cargo ships.
The EU Commission said the current measures would end as originally planned on Friday after Ukraine agreed to introduce any legal measures (including, for example, an export licensing regime) within 30 days to avoid higher grain prices.
“It has concluded that thanks to the work of the coordination platform and the temporary measures introduced on 2 May 2023, market distortions in the five member states bordering Ukraine have disappeared,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The European Union said it would refrain from imposing any restrictions as long as the effective measures taken by Ukraine are in place and fully operational.
Farmers in Ukraine’s five neighboring countries have repeatedly complained that the abundance of products affects their local prices and pushes them towards bankruptcy.
Countries, with the exception of Bulgaria, were pushing for an extension of the ban, which expired on September 15.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia had previously said they might unilaterally extend the restrictions, while Bulgaria on Thursday voted in favor of repealing the restrictions.
The Romanian government, which unlike its counterparts did not implement the ban unilaterally before May, said it “regrets that a European solution to extend the ban has not been found.”
She added that she was waiting for Ukraine to submit its action plan on measures to prevent increased imports by September 18 before deciding how to protect Romanian farmers.
Romania sees more than 60% of alternative flows passing through its territory mainly via the Danube River, and its farmers have threatened to protest if the ban is not extended.
Last year, Ukraine was moving 60% of its exports through the solidarity corridors and 40% through the Black Sea thanks to the deal.
In August, about 4 million tons of Ukrainian grain passed through the solidarity corridors, including nearly 2.7 million tons through the Danube River. The Commission wants to increase exports through Romania further, but the plan has been complicated by Russian drone attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure along the Danube River and near the Romanian border.
(Reporting by Julia Payne and Alan Charlish) (Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, Karol Badohal in Warsaw, Buldisar Gyuri and Kristina Thanh in Budapest) Luisa Ili in Bucharest; Writing by Nina Chestney. Edited by David Evans, Alistair Bell and Grant McCall
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