Ukraine will challenge any extension of a grain-import ban by five European Union nations as it seeks an end to restrictions imposed by some of its closest allies in the bloc, a senior official said.
(Bloomberg) — Ukraine will challenge any extension of a grain-import ban by five European Union nations as it seeks an end to restrictions imposed by some of its closest allies in the bloc, a senior official said.
The import ban introduced by Poland and four other EU member states has emerged as a rare point of friction between Ukraine and some of its strongest backers against Russia’s invasion. Kyiv says the restrictions, introduced in response to protests over plummeting grain prices, jeopardize a crucial lifeline for exports.
Ihor Zhovkva, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff focused on foreign affairs, said the government will seek to appeal restrictions with an arbitration panel if the EU extends the measures beyond a Sept. 15 deadline. The rules are connected to a 2014 trade agreement between Ukraine and the 27-member bloc.
“If the European Commission extends its decision on Ukraine’s grain imports, we will complain to the arbitration panel under our agreement,” Zhovkva said in an interview in Kyiv.
The Zelenskiy aide singled out Poland, which along with Hungary has warned it will impose unilateral restrictions if EU measures aren’t extended. A staunch ally of Ukraine, Poland was the first to issue a ban in the face of demonstrations by farmers complaining about a grain glut weighing on prices — a central political issue ahead of an October election.
If Warsaw moves on its own this month, the commission must proceed with legal measures against violations of the EU’s single market, the aide said.
“The commission must react,” Zhovkva said.
Ukraine has come to rely on export channels directly to EU neighbors, especially after President Vladimir Putin pulled out of a grain deal that allowed exports via its Black Sea ports at the onset of harvest season. Poland’s ban in April was followed by measures in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The European Commission sought to allay the spat by introducing domestic restrictions on grain to replace the unilateral measures. Zelenskiy and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed in May to set up a platform to coordinate and monitor export disruptions.
The restrictions apply to domestic grain, allowing for transit through the five EU states into the bloc. But concerning Poland, Zhovkva complained that the measures slow down movement.
“Poland doesn’t block the transit de jure, but de facto — there were protests, they increase time of our foodstuffs’ checks on the border,” Zhovkva said. “De facto, it is a blockade.”
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