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Tensions Rise as European Commission Ends Ban on Ukrainian Agricultural Imports

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The European Commission has recently imposed temporary restrictions on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products to five EU member states: Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The reason behind this decision is that these countries argue that Ukrainian grain is hurting their markets and harming local farmers.[0] The ban, which was imposed in May, includes wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed. The nations requested this measure due to fears that cheap Ukrainian imports would drive down agriculture prices.[1]

The restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports, including wheat and maize, are currently banned from the territory of five eastern EU countries under a deal struck with Brussels earlier this year. However, only transit to other destinations is allowed, and the restrictions are set to expire on Friday.[2] The European Commission has not yet decided whether to let them lapse or extend them.[2]

This ban on Ukrainian agricultural products was introduced in May 2023 and initially included wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower.[1] It was imposed at the insistence of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, all of which are EU member states.[3] The ban was extended until September 15, 2023, on June 5th.[4] Now, these five countries seek to extend the ban until the end of the year and also expand it to include some other goods.[4]

The ban on Ukrainian grain imports was negotiated by five eastern European countries to protect their domestic producers from a supply glut resulting from Ukraine being granted tariff-free access to the EU's single market in the summer of 2022. The ban is set to expire on Friday, but there is a possibility of it being extended.[5]

However, on Friday, the European Commission announced that it would not extend the restrictions on agricultural imports from Ukraine after September 15.[4] Instead, some of the countries, including Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, will impose their own restrictions to balance their markets.[6] This decision came after several weeks of compromise between Ukraine and the neighboring countries.[6] The EU originally imposed the temporary ban in May to balance the markets.[6]

Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have stated that they will implement their own bans on Ukrainian grain imports despite the European Commission's decision to end the embargo on September 15.[5] This move has raised tensions between the countries and Ukraine, as well as with Brussels.

Poland, in particular, has been firm in its stance and has called on the European Union to extend the embargo on imports of Ukrainian grain to protect its own farmers.[7] The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has stated that Poland will not let Ukrainian grain imports resume regardless of whether the EU extends the restrictions or not. This has led to tensions between Poland, Ukraine, and Brussels.

The European Union's decision to end the ban on Ukrainian crop imports in five of its eastern countries has prompted Poland and Hungary to announce a return to unilateral restrictions. Poland, which is holding a parliamentary election on October 15, has said that it will not lift its ban on Ukrainian grain imports even if the EU does not extend the arrangement.

The issue of corruption has also been raised in relation to this ban.[2] Poland has been a strong supporter of Ukraine's ambitions for EU and NATO membership and has been lobbying on Ukraine's behalf since the beginning of the war.[7] However, Warsaw has recently been adamant in banning imports of Ukrainian agricultural products following farmer protests.[7] This raises the question of whether Ukraine can afford to undermine its relations with Poland in an effort to protect its oligarchs.[3]

Overall, the decision by the European Commission not to extend the ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports has sparked tensions between Ukraine and several EU member states. Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia have announced their own restrictions, while Ukraine has threatened to turn to WTO arbitration to obtain compensation for any violation of trade laws.[7] The situation remains uncertain, and it remains to be seen how these tensions will be resolved in the coming weeks and months.

0. “Poland bans imports of agricultural products from Ukraine indefinitely effective midnight” Yahoo News, 15 Sep. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/poland-bans-imports-agricultural-products-192114205.html

1. “Poland, Hungary, Slovakia to extend bans on Ukrainian grain” Kyiv Independent, 15 Sep. 2023, https://kyivindependent.com/poland-hungary-slovakia-to-extend-bans-on-ukrainian-grain/

2. “Poland won't reopen its border to Ukrainian grain imports, PM says” POLITICO Europe, 12 Sep. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-poland-prime-minister-mateusz-morawiecki-ukrainian-grain-imports

3. “Ukrainian PM attacks Poland again” TVP World, 13 Sep. 2023, https://tvpworld.com/72687345/ukrainian-pm-attacks-poland-with-russianstyle-propaganda

4. “Zelensky, Duda likely to meet soon – Polish official” Ukrinform, 13 Sep. 2023, https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3760644-zelensky-duda-likely-to-meet-soon-polish-official.html

5. “Poland threatens to block Ukraine grain imports as time runs down on deal with EU” UPI News, 12 Sep. 2023, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2023/09/12/Poland-issues-Ukraine-grain-import-ban-threat/5151694514446/

6. “EU lifts ban on Ukrainian grain | WORLD” WORLD News Group, 15 Sep. 2023, https://wng.org/sift/eu-lifts-ban-on-ukrainian-grain-1694805887

7. “Poland threatens to keep Ukrainian grain ban after embargo date expires” Al Jazeera English, 12 Sep. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/12/poland-to-keep-ukrainian-grain-ban-after-embargo-date-expires

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