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The conflict over Ukrainian grain has divided the EU

While some say that in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary they do not behave like Europeans – because they prohibit the import of Ukrainian grain – in these countries they claim that they are behaving Europeanly, protecting their own and European interests. In the capitals of these countries, it can be heard that the Americans, whose corporations hold most of the agricultural goods in Ukraine, are trying to export grain from Ukraine and sell it in the EU by lowering the price of grain products marketed by its members.

The grain war, which until now reigned between Russia and Ukraine, has now spread to Ukraine and European countries, threatening the unity of the EU. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia on Friday, when the previous measure expired, extended the ban on imports from Ukraine despite the European Commission lifting the embargo again that day. Namely, on Friday, the Commission, on behalf of all EU members, lifted the embargo on the export of Ukrainian grain, and the decision should have applied to all member states, which it called on to be constructive in solving this problem.

To make the paradox even greater, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday evening that he spoke with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and thanked her for the decision.

But these three states persisted in their decisions. While Slovakia only extended the previous ban on the import of four types of grain, Poland over the weekend introduced additional bans on Ukrainian flour and animal feed, and Hungary banned the import of another 25 products not previously on the list. Among them are all kinds of meat, eggs, vegetables, honey, sunflower seeds, wine… The border services were ordered to seal the cargo at the border and carefully monitor its transport until it leaves the country.

Yesterday, Ukraine announced that it will sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia at the World Trade Organization and seek compensation. The representative of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, Taras Kachka, said in an interview for “Politiko” that Kyiv will introduce reciprocal measures if Warsaw does not suspend the ban and cited as an example that Kyiv will ban the import of fruits and vegetables from Poland. “I think the whole world needs to see how EU members behave towards their trade partners and their own union, because it can affect other countries as well,” said the Ukrainian official.

However, an immediate response came from Warsaw that they would not let Ukraine into the EU if the grain export issue was not resolved. Polish Minister of Agriculture Robert Tellus replied that Warsaw would not agree to Ukraine’s accession to the EU and reminded that when Poland joined the EU, it had to fulfill the conditions that were strictly imposed on it. “We also have to set conditions for Ukraine,” said Telus and added that Poland is not equal in these conditions.

Poland and Ukraine started an “agrarian war” in the spring of this year, when Polish farmers went on strike due to a sudden drop in grain prices, almost by half, which caused the import of cheaper grain from Ukraine to Poland. This topic has been especially topical in recent weeks, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Poland, so in order to protect farmers, who are mostly voters of the ruling Law and Justice Party, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sent an ultimatum to the European Commission, which issued approval for the import of Ukrainian grain.

Parliamentary elections are also being held in Slovakia this month, and polls show a high probability that former Prime Minister Robert Fico will return to the government. He also based part of his election campaign on this topic. Bulgaria and Romania are currently not mentioned, although they were also among the group of countries that banned imports until September 15. All five countries initially banned the transit of grain from Ukraine through their territories, but later allowed it while maintaining restrictions on imports into their countries.

Under new agreements with the EU, Ukraine has agreed to take swift action to prevent a sharp increase in grain exports to the bloc’s countries. The European Commission has promised to refrain from imposing restrictions as long as the measures taken by the Ukrainians are effective. Until then, EU members are obliged to comply with Brussels’ trade decisions. Some European officials have stressed that unilateral decisions by countries to ban grain imports are in violation of EU laws.

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