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21 Sep. 2023

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Grain blockade: why is Ukraine launching a lawsuit and what does the EU say about it?

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Grain blockade: why is Ukraine launching a lawsuit and what does the EU say about it?

Despite the official position of the European Commission, three EU countries are blocking imports of Ukrainian agricultural products. Find out why Ukraine is going to sue European countries, what consequences the countries' statements have already had, and why some of them have been contradictory

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On September 17, it became known that Ukraine plans to appeal the refusal of Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to lift the ban on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products. In particular, Taras Kachka, Ukraine's trade representative, said in an interview with Playbook Politico that the state intends to challenge the EU's failure to comply with its free trade commitments. In particular, Ukraine will sue the World Trade Organization rather than its own trade agreement with the EU.


Why is Ukraine suing EU countries?


Poland, Hungary and Slovakia do not agree with the European Commission's decision to allow the sale of Ukrainian grain in their countries. And despite the official decision, the countries said they would impose their own bans on Ukrainian agricultural imports.


Taras Kachka notes that the rebellion of the three countries could become a problem for the entire European Union.


"For many years, the European Commission has been the institution that has been conducting trade negotiations and developing trade policy for the entire EU. And we have been working on this basis... The systematic approach of Budapest and Warsaw to ignore the position of the EU institutions in trade policy, I think, will be a problem for the EU as a whole, because there is no unity there," he commented.


How did Poland and other countries react to Ukraine's decision?


The loudest statements are currently coming from Poland. In particular, Polish Minister of Agriculture Robert Telus said in an interview with Euractiv that Poland is not afraid of consequences from the EU or the WTO for its decision to impose a unilateral ban on imports of Ukrainian agricultural goods.


"We would not like to implement unilateral decisions - we would be happy if the EU did it, which would be a real solidarity approach of the EU, but we had to implement this decision unilaterally to protect our farmers," he added.


In addition, Telus believes that there are currently no substantial arguments to lift the ban, and the European Commission's decision, in his opinion, is purely political.




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It is also important to note that the Prime Minister of Poland also expressed certain threats in his comments to PAP.


"I warn the Ukrainian authorities that if they escalate this conflict, we will add even more products to the ban on entry into Poland," he said. 


At the same time, his deputy noted that "Poland will continue to support Ukraine in its confrontation with russia, despite the grain scandal." President Andrzej Duda expressed a similar opinion, but later compared Ukraine to a drowning man, noting that "anyone who has ever participated in the rescue of a drowning man knows that he is incredibly dangerous, that he can drag down to the depths." 


"Do we need to act in such a way as to protect ourselves from being hurt by someone who is drowning? Of course, we must act in such a way as to protect ourselves from being harmed by the drowning person, because if the drowning person harms us and drowns us, he will not get help. So we have to take care of our interests, and we will do it effectively and decisively," he added.


However, the planned meeting after the UN General Assembly meeting between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Andrzej Duda did not take place. According to official comments, it was due to a mismatch in schedules and protocols, but most experts are convinced that the reason was the statement by the President of Ukraine that "someone in Europe is helping to prepare the stage for the moscow actor." And although it was obviously about Hungary and Orban, Poland was very critical of the speech, taking these words personally, and summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to express a "strong protest."


What are the consequences of the grain scandal?


Currently, Poland has no specific position on whether to cut off aid to Ukraine amid the grain blockade. Many officials have openly stated that they will continue to support the country "as long as necessary." However, it is unclear how events will unfold in the future, whether the situation will escalate and whether grain will become the "apple of Eris."


In addition, experts say that the situation may affect not only the transit of military aid through Poland, but also the support of refugees within the country. And it is already known that financial assistance to Ukrainians in Poland will be reduced in 2024


Speaking about the consequences, it is also worth considering that Poland is currently preparing for elections, and one of the key parties, Law and Justice (PiS), which has a rather tough stance towards Ukraine and is categorically against Ukrainian imports, may well win the elections, because, as experts say, it "aggravates relations with countries to get votes." This means that in October the situation may also take new turns. And the scenarios experts are talking about are disappointing, as about 12% of Poland's population works in agriculture, which means that every vote in the elections will be worth its weight in gold, as the results of the vote can dramatically change the country's policy and general mood.


We remind you! Ukraine's budget for 2024 will differ significantly from previous military budgets. Read more about the fundamental difference, how the changes will affect the citizens of Ukraine, and what risks such public spending planning poses in our previous article.


Photo: Unsplash/Dhueske




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