EU unhappy with Poland and Hungary’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports
Poland and Hungary's decision to temporarily ban imports of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine has been criticised by the European Commission. The measure is “unacceptable”, a spokesperson said on Monday. The Commission is planning a second aid package for farmers affected by the suspension of European import duties.
In May 2022, following the Russian invasion, the EU decided not to impose import duties on products from Ukraine for at least a year. The measure applied to grain and other agricultural products, whose exports to third countries were also diverted through the EU because the usual trade routes via the Black Sea were inaccessible.
However, several eastern European EU countries – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria – have faced sharp falls in the price of their own agricultural products as a result. After weeks of protests, Poland and Hungary last weekend announced that they would ban imports of Ukrainian agricultural products until 30 June, in an attempt to protect their own agricultural sector.
The measure, however, took the Commission by surprise. “It is important to stress that trade policy is exclusively an EU competence and unilateral initiatives are not acceptable,” said spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer. The Commission has also requested additional information from Warsaw and Budapest to allow it to better evaluate the decision, she said. “It is crucial in these difficult times to continue to coordinate all EU decisions.”
On 20 March, the Commission proposed 56.3 million euros in crisis aid for affected farmers in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and is working on a second package that takes into account the impact of suspended import duties.
A farmer at a blockade in the Polish border town of Hrubieszow in Poland, where grain enters from Ukraine © PHOTO ATTILA HUSEJNOW / SOPA IMAGES / SIPA USA