Espreso. Global

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to quit grain platform due to Ukraine's lawsuit against export ban

18 September, 2023 Monday

Ukraine filed lawsuits with the World Trade Organization against Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, which unilaterally banned imports of Ukrainian agricultural products

Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a statement.

“It is crucial for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods. That's why we are filing lawsuits against them in the WTO. At the same time, we hope that these countries will lift their restrictions, and we will not have to settle the matter in courts for a long time,” Svyrydenko said.

Amid Ukraine’s legal action, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia decide to withdraw from the grain Coordination Platform, which was set up in May, bringing together Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the European Commission. A source in the EU told PAP.

"Poland, Hungary and Slovakia refuse to work within the platform because of procedural caution and the fact that Ukraine may use the information provided within the coordination platform against these three countries in the WTO proceedings," the source said.

According to the source, these three countries are cautious about Ukraine, which may use the data obtained through the coordination platform to protect its interests in the WTO against them.

In addition, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria have expressed disagreement with Ukraine's action plan on grain export control measures, which Ukraine has proposed to replace unilateral restrictions on imports of its products.

Ukraine legal proceedings against Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia
Earlier in the day, Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Representative of Ukraine, said in an interview with Politico Brussels Playbook that Ukraine plans to initiate legal proceedings against Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia for imposing grain bans on Ukraine following the European Commission's decision to lift restrictions.

"It is important to prove that these actions are legally wrong. And that’s why we will start legal proceedings tomorrow," Kachka said, adding that Kyiv is preparing to respond to the export of Polish fruits and vegetables.

He also noted that Kyiv plans to sue countries in the World Trade Organization, not through its own trade agreement with the EU.

"I think that all the world should see how member states in the EU behave towards trade partners and their own Union because it can influence other states as well," Kachka said.

Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia's grain bans on Ukraine raise concerns over EU unity, says the deputy economy minister

After Poland, Hungary and Slovakia said they would impose their own bans on Ukrainian grain following the European Commission's decision to lift the restrictions, the deputy economy minister said the neighboring countries' measures "are a statement of total distrust to the European Commission."

Kachka argues that the open defiance of Brussels by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia was not only an internal EU matter but raised "the biggest systemic concern" about whether international trading partners could trust that Brussels was speaking for the EU.

"For many years, it’s been the European Commission who is the trade negotiator and trade policy institution for the whole EU. And we used to work on this basis. The systemic approach of Budapest and Warsaw of ignoring the position of the EU institutions in trade policy, I think that will be a problem for the EU in general because there is no unity there," the Ukrainian trade representative emphasized.

He called the countries' bans "ridiculous." According to the deputy economy minister, Hungary's political statement about its plans to block trade with Ukraine and completely ignore Brussels is a very bold step.

Ukraine’s potential ban on Polish exports

If Warsaw does not cancel these additional bans, “we would be forced to retaliate on the additional products, and would prohibit the import of fruit and vegetables from Poland," Kachka said.

He also responded to the claim by the governments in Budapest and Warsaw that they are acting to protect their farmers from a surge of Ukrainian products that has driven down prices, saying that this argument is false. According to him, Poland's ban will not help farmers, it will not affect prices because prices are global.

Ukraine is ready to “take on the responsibility to ensure that export from Ukraine is not creating any tsunami in neighboring countries” and will introduce a system of “real-time” grain export licenses, the trade representative stated.

Some details regarding ban on Ukraine grain imports

On February 2, Polish farmers began blocking checkpoints on the border with Ukraine. They were outraged that the uncontrolled inflow of Ukrainian grain to Poland had caused prices for their products to plummet. Local farmers argue that Ukrainian grain should have been transported through Poland only to ports, but it ended up on the Polish market. 

On February 16 and 17, Polish farmers resumed protests on the border with Ukraine.

On April 7, Ukraine agreed to stop exporting grain to Poland, and on April 15, the country approved a ban on the import of Ukrainian grain and other food products to Poland.

Later, on April 15, Poland approved a ban on the import of Ukrainian grain and other food products to Poland. The government emphasized that this decision does not change the country's position on support and friendship with Ukraine.

In April, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Hungary also decided to unilaterally ban imports of agricultural products from Ukraine.

On April 29, the European Commission agreed with Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia on the transit of food produced in Ukraine through their territory.

On May 12, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary called on the European Commission to extend the embargo on agricultural products from Ukraine until the end of the year.

In late May, it was reported that four EU countries would insist on extending grain import restrictions from Ukraine until October. At the same time, Hungary wants to extend the restrictions until 2024.  

On June 5, the EU decided to extend the ban on imports of certain agricultural products from Ukraine for five EU members until September 15, but promised to gradually lift it.

On August 24, it was revealed that Hungary requested an extension of the EU's ban on Ukrainian grain imports.

Following this, Poland's Minister of Agriculture, Robert Telus, stated that Poland would also urge the European Union to extend the ban on Ukrainian grain imports. If the EU refuses, Poland would consider implementing its own restrictions. He noted that Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary had similar intentions.

In response, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its disapproval of the plans by Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Hungary to prolong the ban on Ukrainian grain imports until the end of 2023, deeming the actions of these five EU countries unacceptable.

On September 13, Bulgaria's parliamentary committee on economic policy and innovation passed a draft decision indicating that the country does not support the continuation of the ban on certain Ukrainian agricultural product imports beyond September 15.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has commented on the export of Ukrainian grain to the EU: Ukraine expects that after September 15, the European side will lift any restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural products.

On Friday, September 15, the European Commission decided not to extend the ban on Ukrainian grain exports to the EU: Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia announced that they would extend the embargo unilaterally.

On the same day, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal noted that the EU's decision would not only help Ukrainian exports and the economy in the face of the blockade of Black Sea ports, but would also contribute to global food security. He called on individual EU member states to refrain from unlawful unilateral restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural products.

Taras Kachka, Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Representative, said that negotiations on agriculture had turned into aggression on the part of Poland and hints of influence during Ukraine's accession to the EU.

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