Ukraine Prepares Legal Action Against Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia Over Food Import Bans

by Ella

Kiev, September 19, 2023 – Ukraine is gearing up to file lawsuits against Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia following the imposition of unilateral bans by these Eastern European Union member states on Ukrainian agricultural products, as confirmed by Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky on Monday.

“I think (it will be) in the near future,” Solsky informed Reuters.


This development comes in response to recent actions taken by Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, which announced their respective restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports last Friday, citing their economic interests and the need to safeguard their farmers from an oversupply of products. The restrictions came after the European Commission opted not to extend its ban on Ukrainian agricultural imports into the neighboring EU states.


In May, the European Union introduced restrictions that allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia to prohibit the sale of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds within their territories, while permitting the transit of such goods for export elsewhere.


Romania, while not yet imposing separate measures, indicated on Monday that it might also extend the ban if import requests increased.


Ukraine’s Trade Representative Taras Kachka, speaking to Politico earlier on Monday, confirmed Kyiv’s intention to initiate legal proceedings against the three countries, emphasizing the importance of demonstrating the illegality of these actions.

Kachka also warned of potential reciprocal measures against Poland if the additional restrictions were not lifted, mentioning the possibility of banning the import of fruits and vegetables from Poland.

Poland’s Agriculture Minister Robert Telus clarified that Warsaw’s ban not only covered four cereals but was also extended to include meals derived from these cereals, such as corn, wheat, and rapeseed.

Radoslaw Fogiel, the head of Poland’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission, cautioned that Ukraine’s decision to sue could have adverse repercussions in Poland, stressing that Poland’s actions were motivated by the protection of Polish farmers and national interests.

While the dispute holds significance in Poland, which faces upcoming elections in October and where farmers form a critical constituency for the ruling nationalist PiS party, Kyiv had previously indicated its potential recourse to international arbitration over the restrictions.

The European Union allowed its ban to expire on Friday after Ukraine committed to tightening control over exports to its neighboring countries.

Prior to Russia’s invasion in 2022, Ukraine had held a position as one of the world’s leading grain exporters. However, the conflict hampered its ability to export agricultural produce through Black Sea ports. Consequently, Ukrainian farmers increasingly relied on neighboring countries to facilitate grain exports.

Nevertheless, this influx of grains and oilseeds into neighboring countries negatively impacted local farmers and led governments to restrict agricultural imports from Ukraine. The European Union stepped in to prevent individual states from imposing unilateral bans and introduced its own ban on imports from Ukraine, permitting Ukraine to export through those countries, provided the produce was sold elsewhere.

Kachka assured that Kyiv was ready to implement a system of “real-time” export licenses for grains to ensure responsible export practices without disrupting neighboring countries.

Farm Ministry data indicated that 1.4 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products were shipped by train in the first three months of the 2023/24 July-June season, out of a total export volume of 4.5 million tons. Ukraine transports grains via rail through crossings with Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, with an additional 1 million tons of oils and oilseeds shipped by rail.

Spain’s Agriculture Minister Luis Planas Puchades expressed concerns on Monday regarding the unilateral bans imposed by EU member states on Ukrainian grain imports, suggesting they may be illegal. France emphasized the importance of European solidarity, with Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau cautioning that the moves called into question the unity required for the European project to succeed.

Fesneau also indicated that EU ministers were exploring a proposal for a nuanced exemption from fallow land rules, rather than a complete suspension, to ease the strain on farmers.

Romania’s Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu revealed intentions to extend a trade ban on Ukrainian grain for 30 days if import requests increased. He emphasized the need for clarity in this matter and expressed readiness to discuss export licensing proposals from Ukraine.

While some EU member states have lifted their bans on Ukrainian grains, the issue remains a source of tension and concern for Ukraine’s allies in Central and Eastern Europe. EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis urged countries to refrain from unilateral measures against Ukrainian grain imports, emphasizing the importance of a coordinated approach. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the EU’s decision not to extend the ban and reiterated his government’s commitment to adhering to EU rules in response to any violations by member states.



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