Espreso. Global

25 Ukrainian truckers blocked at border agree to evacuate from Poland — Ministry of Infrastructure

29 November, 2023 Wednesday

Ukraine’s Ministry of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure is collecting and verifying information for the evacuation of drivers blocked on the Polish side of the border

This was stated by Deputy Minister of Community Development, Territories and Infrastructure of Ukraine, Serhiy Derkach, in a comment to Suspilne.

According to him, 25 drivers who are currently at the blocked checkpoints on the Polish side have expressed a desire to evacuate. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of resolving the issue of returning the drivers back to Poland for their trucks.

"According to the terms of departure for drivers liable for military service and engaged in commercial transportation, a driver can only leave with a truck. The Ministry emphasizes that the conditions for returning for trucks will be created without exclusion from the Shlyakh system (system launched by Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers which allows male drivers of military age to cross the border - ed.) and in cooperation with the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine," Derkach said.

At the same time, not all drivers are ready to evacuate because they fear for their cargo.

"The cargo is not on the truck or the company, the driver is responsible for the cargo. What if he goes home, comes back, and the car is empty? And it's a million-dollar car! What do you do then? Who's going to be responsible for it? How can you just leave it and go home? What evacuation? Everyone is carrying cargo! One car can carry up to a million euros worth of goods," said a man who is currently at the Krakovets-Korczowa checkpoint.

The Polish business environment is also suffering losses as a result of the blockade of the border with Ukraine

"According to information from the Polish business community, they are also suffering losses from the situation on the Ukrainian-Polish border. And, as we know, most carriers do not support this protest," said Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine Markiyan Dmytrasevych in an interview with Ukrainian Radio.

He also said that Ukraine cannot import grain to Poland at the moment, it is in transit. "Therefore, the involvement of farmers in these protests is somewhat surprising, as we do not see any objective reasons for this," the official said.

In response to a letter from Polish Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk urging the fulfillment of the demands of Polish protesters, Dmytrasevych clarified that the issue concerned the transit of empty trucks from Ukraine to Poland. "I think there is room for a reasonable compromise on both sides. Including finding a way to satisfy the protesters and finally resolve this situation," he said.

According to him, with regard to the requirement to release empty vehicles, the Ukrainian government "has already stated that it is ready to organize work in such a way that it will make life easier not only for Polish truckers, but also for Ukrainian ones, so that they can leave the territory of Ukraine with empty vehicles and continue to serve their orders."

The official explained that the problem of permits is quite old, and at the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion, the relevant agreements were signed between Ukraine and the European Union. "And that is why all the negotiations at the highest level are conducted not only with the Polish side, but also with the European Commission. We need to understand that the issue of ‘transport visa-free travel’ is vital for Ukraine now. That is why, for example, I am pleased that Mr. Adamczyk's letter does not mention this issue," said Dmytrasevych.

At the same time, he emphasized that the problem at the border is becoming even more acute due to deteriorating weather conditions. "That is why we still need to give space to our negotiators and what President Zelenskyy said - to give time to resolve this situation. Because negotiations are held every day. They are taking place today and will continue tomorrow. In reality, they are actively seeking common ground basically every hour," he said.

As for when the situation might be resolved, Dmytrasevych said, "Let's give the negotiators the next few weeks to achieve a positive result."

According to the deputy minister, depending on the checkpoint, 500 to 2,000 trucks are stuck at the border.

Strikes on the border between Poland and Ukraine

Strikes have erupted on the Poland-Ukraine border due to increased competition following the opening of international transportation between Ukraine and EU nations. To address this, the Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development initiated talks with Poland and the European Commission.

Responding to the potential border blockage, the State Border Guard Service provided comments, and Ukraine formally communicated its concerns to Poland regarding the planned strike by Polish carriers at the Ukrainian-Polish border.

On November 6, Polish carriers initiated a strike at the border. The Ministry of Infrastructure noted that no official demands had been submitted by the Polish carriers to Kyiv.

By the evening of November 7, Polish carriers had fully halted the movement of cargo vehicles at two border checkpoints with Ukraine.

Subsequently, it was revealed that trucks are facing up to a 90-hour wait to enter Ukraine.

On November 9, a meeting of government officials and carriers blocking the border with Ukraine took place in Poland, but it concluded without any resolution. Simultaneously, the lines of trucks are growing longer. Consequently, Ukraine has suggested to the Polish authorities the initiation of lanes for empty trucks and is currently awaiting their response.

On November 15, trilateral talks with Poland and the European Commission on unblocking the crossing points took place, but they did not yield any results. Instead, the European Commission may initiate measures against Poland if the authorities do not resolve the issue of carriers blocking checkpoints on the border with Ukraine.

Polish carriers have promised to tighten the blockade on the border with Ukraine. In addition, customs officers have begun to record an increase in truck queues in the Slovak direction.

Ukraine and Poland are preparing claims for damages caused by the blockade of border crossing points due to the rally of Polish carriers. In addition, it has been reported that Polish carriers are not allowing humanitarian aid and dangerous goods to pass through.

According to Volodymyr Balin, vice president of the Association of International Road Carriers, Polish carriers are violating the terms of the strike, which could help to get it called off. At the same time, the Ukrainian economy has already suffered losses of more than €400 million.

Meanwhile, the Polish government has called on Ukraine to cancel the e-queue registration for empty trucks.

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