Poland – At a meeting in Warsaw on July 19, the agriculture ministers of Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia urged the European Commission to extend the ban on grain imports from Ukraine from September 15 to December 31. The previous ban was due to end on September 15. On September 14, however, Bulgaria backed out of this ad hoc coalition of the European Union’s eastern-flank states. The European Commission had still not made its decision known as of September 15.
A special decree of the Polish government
Three days earlier, on September 12, the Polish government adopted a decree intended to unilaterally “extend preventive measures on imports of certain products from Ukraine” should the European Commission fail to act. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki himself confirmed that
“if the European Commission does not extend the ban on Ukrainian grain imports after September 15, Poland itself will extend it”.
An ultimatum sent to the European Commission
The Polish PM left no doubt:
“I have sent an ultimatum to the European Commission.
It is an unequivocal request: either you extend the import ban on four Ukrainian cereals […], or we will extend the ban ourselves, because
we cannot allow Polish markets to be disrupted.”
“The Ukrainians should understand this.”
Polish Deputy Prime Minister and PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński also elaborated on the Polish position: “We are ready to support Ukraine in the war and during the reconstruction, in which we are willing to participate, but at the same time
we must also remember our own people, our agriculture, and our countryside […] and I think our Ukrainian friends should understand that.”
Poland’s Minister of Agriculture, Robert Telus, pointed out that “the decree [of the Polish government] is addressed to the European Commission. If the Commission does not make a decision, we will certainly introduce our own regulation, which will prohibit the entry into Poland – but not the transit – of Ukrainian grain, as has been the case until now, until the situation of the trade relations between Poland and Ukraine is resolved. […] There is no factual basis for not extending the embargo. ”
Ukraine to lodge a complaint with the WTO
For his part, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Economy Taras Kachka announced that
“if the import ban is maintained, Ukraine will lodge a complaint against Poland and the European Union with the World Trade Organization.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal likewise reacted in the same way on X (formerly Twitter): “In the case of a violation of trade law in the interest of political populism before the elections, Ukraine will be forced to turn to WTO arbitration to obtain compensation for such a violation of GATT norms.”
This arm-wrestle between Poland and Ukraine somewhat spoils the image of unity and brotherhood projected by the two countries since the start of Russia’s full-fledged war in Ukraine. As President Zelensky’s main supporter on the international stage and the European Union’s biggest host country for Ukrainian refugees, Poland, which will have a parliamentary election in a month’s time, could have done without this dispute.
Given that the elections’ outcome is not a foregone conclusion for PiS, the ruling social-conservative party, the authorities in Kyiv may be banking on a victory by their liberal, Euro-enthusiastic opposition as they did a year ago prior to the Hungarian national elections.