Espreso. Global
OPINION

Polish truckers' protests: Ukraine's European integration will not be easy. Column by Vitaliy Portnikov

8 November, 2023 Wednesday
15:40

In any developed economy, like those in Europe, competition is essential, and it follows the same rules for everyone

client/title.list_title

The recent attempt by Polish transport companies to block the border crossings between Poland and Ukraine to stop the flow of goods from Ukraine into the European Union serves as a reminder of how challenging Ukraine's journey towards European integration can be. Not long ago, we witnessed protests from Polish farmers who requested limits on the sale of Ukrainian agricultural products in Poland. Now, we see another sector of the Polish economy attempting to stifle competition through unconventional means.

Both in the case of the Polish farmers' protest and the actions of Polish carriers, it seems like there's a desire to undermine agreements that Ukraine has already made with the European Union. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there was a system where Poland granted permits to Ukrainian carriers for the transportation of goods, creating favorable conditions for its own citizens in the process.

Back then, Poland's actions went against agreements between Ukraine and the European Union. After the major conflict, the Polish government didn't give in to Ukraine. Instead, they started following international agreements required as an EU member. This means Polish carriers don't have a real chance to return to the system before the full-scale invasion. Surprisingly, they aren't talking to Ukraine's leaders. Instead, they're asking their own government to make a decision that would favor Polish carriers over Ukrainian ones.

The situation of Polish carriers isn't the same as that of Polish farmers. A political group called "Confederation," which isn't very friendly toward Ukraine and leans towards Russia, supported both protests. During elections, the ruling right-wing populist party "Law and Justice" in Poland was concerned that the "Confederation" might take away their support from agrarian voters. In response, "Law and Justice" essentially followed the path of the organizers of this anti-Ukrainian protest, damaging relations with Ukraine. Leaders of this political group, like President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, were known for their statements that harmed the good relationship and cooperation between Poland and Ukraine, which had been demonstrated after Russia's attack on Ukraine.

However, these tactics dealt a significant blow to the Polish right-wing populists themselves. They may have won some of the "Confederation" voters, but the anti-Ukrainian party didn't perform well in the new Polish Diet and lost its relevance. But "Law and Justice" alienated its moderate supporters. Even though they won the parliamentary elections, it's clear that right-wing representatives won't stay in power, as they lack the majority required to form a new Polish government.

Consequently, their time in power will come to an end soon. Poland's relationships with the European Commission, as well as its western and eastern neighbors like Germany and Ukraine, which are crucial in its European role, will start to improve. The process of rectifying the catastrophic mistakes made by the right-wing populists during their troubled tenure in Poland will begin.

Additionally, efforts to heal social divisions will commence. The protests we see are largely a result of the irresponsible populist policies of the past years, particularly during the last two terms when the Polish right-wing populists were in charge of the country.

This doesn't mean that Ukraine's path to European integration will be without challenges when it comes to economic interests. We recognize that in any economy, it's natural to want to outdo the competition. I vividly recall the days when Poland was integrating with Europe. In Western European countries, many were reluctant about this integration. They made every effort to keep their borders closed to Poles, fearing that Poles would pose stiff competition in their job markets. The idea of the "Polish plumber" flooding the French job market and displacing local workers became a popular meme during that time, which Poles still remember from their own integration process.

When Poland eventually became an equal member of the European Union, and its citizens gained access to the European job market, no catastrophe unfolded. The European economies thrived, just as they will when Ukraine joins the EU.

Certainly, competition will intensify, but competition is the bedrock of any modern economy, governed by shared rules. In such scenarios, there are always winners and losers. Yet, attempts to stifle competition by roadblocks or restrictions on products from neighboring countries are actions out of step with a market economy. These practices are what’s left of outdated socialist ideas that persist even in a truly open economy.

In this new context, it's evident that protests by Polish carriers won't achieve much except to underscore the importance of upholding the agreements Ukraine has made with the European Union. These reminders emphasize that no EU member had to alter these agreements to create an illusion for their citizens that winning at someone else's expense is possible.

About the author. Vitaly Portnikov, journalist, Shevchenko National Prize laureate

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

Tags:
Read also:
  • News
2024, Friday
14 June
11:15
Russia hits bus with drone in Sumy region, injuring three people
10:57
Updated
Russia claims to have destroyed 87 drones: oil depot allegedly damaged
10:39
ISW assesses consequences of strikes on Crimea for Russia
10:20
Review
Russian fakes for June 13: selection from Center for Countering Disinformation
09:58
Russia's night attack: Ukraine's air defense destroys 24 of 31 air targets
09:39
Russian army loses 1,250 soldiers, 48 artillery systems, 8 tanks in Ukraine per day
2024, Thursday
13 June
22:00
Review
Victorious news of 841st day of war: 5 destroyed Russian boats, $50 billion for Ukraine from frozen Russian assets
21:48
Ukraine, US sign bilateral security agreement for 10 years
21:32
Not only procurement, but strengthening production: Stoltenberg on expanding military aid to Ukraine
21:15
Exclusive
Ukraine to join NATO's JATEC training centre in Poland - Stoltenberg
20:54
Ukraine's IT Army shuts down Russian bank provider - Ministry of Digital Transformation
20:35
Russia plans to fill irrigation canals with artesian water after Kakhovka HPP destruction
20:16
Japan, Ukraine sign 10-year term security agreement: what it provides for
19:58
Updated
Russian missile strike on Kryvyi Rih kills 9 people, injures 37 others
19:39
Ukraine needs 4.5 million able-bodied citizens to restore its economy - expert
19:20
Britain joins United States in sanctioning Moscow Stock Exchange
19:01
Ukraine will receive what it needs, assures Lloyd Austin
18:43
China lobbies for its 'peace plan' ahead of Peace Summit in Switzerland - media
18:22
G7 to allocate $50 billion to Ukraine from frozen Russian assets, confirms German Finance Minister
18:03
Exclusive
US to grant Ukraine $100 million military aid package - Lloyd Austin
17:42
Exclusive
Russian army amasses reserves in Kharkiv region - Ukrainian military
17:21
Switzerland changes draft decision of Peace Summit in Ukraine's favor, number of participants decreases
17:00
Review
Who is Ihor Vovchanchyn, whom Oleksandr Usyk will play in film with Dwayne Johnson?
16:38
Deploying entire Patriot battery to Ukraine is dangerous - Polish National Security Bureau chief
16:19
NATO to step up fight against Russian spies amid sabotage, cyberattacks – Stoltenberg
16:00
Exclusive
What will happen to US-Ukraine security agreement if Trump becomes president: diplomat explains
15:29
Ukraine has right to strike military facilities on Russian territory, says Stoltenberg
14:53
Exclusive
Ukraine's Navy explains why Russian warships visit Havana Port
14:32
Ukrainian Defense Forces destroy 5 Russian boats in southern Ukraine
13:59
Russia storms 8 times in Pokrovsk direction, ongoing fighting near Kalynove – Ukraine's General Staff
13:38
G7 summit start: President Zelenskyy outlines key topics for Ukraine
13:23
Russian offensive plans in northern Ukraine thwarted, reserves being deployed
12:58
Norway to provide Ukraine with over $45 million worth of mortar ammunition
12:25
Russia accused of using starvation "tactics" in Mariupol in 2022 - human rights activists
11:59
Exclusive
Next ICC warrant against Putin could be for Mariupol famine - Mariupol official
11:43
Ancient stolen painting found by Ukrainian Border Guards after 20 years of Interpol search
11:22
NATO's Stoltenberg calls China's aid to Russia key in war against Ukraine
10:58
Ukrainian Armed Forces hit Russia's latest P-416GM communication station first time in history
10:37
Britain to announce $309 million aid for Ukraine at G7 summit
10:17
Russia plans to interfere in US presidential election using AI – US intelligence
More news