The temporary import ban on Ukrainian grain for the country’s five EU neighbours ended on September 15. Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland – parliamentary elections are due in the latter two in the upcoming weeks – unilaterally extended their bans to the dismay of the EU. Ukraine consequently filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation, write Agerpres.
On September 15 the European Commission decided not to extend its ban on Ukrainian grain imports – specifically wheat, maize, sunflower and rapeseed – that applied to the country’s EU neighbours Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
One day later, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia took matters into their own hands by issuing their own bans on the import of Ukrainian grain and other goods, citing the need to protect their farmers from competition due to significantly increased Ukrainian imports.
Both Ukraine and the European Commission have called on the three to step back from the unilateral extension of the embargo. The Commission is analysing the measures taken by the three EU states, according to a spokeswoman.
Kiev has since filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the three countries. Janusz Wojciechowski, the Polish EU Agricultural Commissioner, said he was ‘quite surprised that Ukraine chose this route’ given that export volumes have risen sharply in recent months despite the restrictions.
‘For us, it is important in principle to prove that individual member states cannot impose an import ban on Ukrainian goods,’ said Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister and minister for economy in a statement. During a speech at the UN General Assembly, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the ‘political theatre’ around grain imports would only help Moscow.
‘Part time solidarity’ doesn’t make the cut, single-market-unity must prevail
On Monday, the bloc’s agricultural ministers met for the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, where some showed dismay with the unilateral bans by Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest while others understood their decisions.
‘I believe that it is, not only an error, but also contrary to Community law and, evidently, to the principles of the single market, for any Member State to adopt unilateral restrictive measures,’ declared Spanish Agricultural Minister Luis Planas who chaired the meeting. He pointed out that the EU-27 have defended the need to preserve unity in defence of Ukraine in regard to ‘unilateral’ bans on grain imports and that they have called for measures to be taken ‘with the consensus of all’.
I also don’t see how this can be brought into line with EU law.
Cem Özdemir, German Agriculture Minister
Slovenian Agriculture Minister Irena inko also expressed concern about unilateral measures and seconded the importance of a united EU approach. German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir criticised the move by the governments in Warsaw, Budapest and Bratislava as ‘part-time solidarity’ with Ukraine. ‘I also don’t see how this can be brought into line with EU law,’ he added, saying his information showed that the market was handling Ukrainian grain well.
While his Austrian counterpart Norbert Totschnig called on the EU to ensure the workings of the single market, emphasising solidarity with Ukraine, he also showed understanding for the neighbouring states. The infrastructure should be expanded so that Ukrainian grain gets to where it is needed more – for example in countries of the Middle East and Africa, said Totschnig.