BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission called on Poland, Hungary and Slovakia on Sunday to be constructive after they unilaterally declared they would continue to ban grain imports from Ukraine despite the Commission’s decision to end the ban.
“We are aware of some Member States’ announcements in respect to unilateral measures. What is important right now is that all countries work in the spirit of compromise and engage constructively,” a Commission spokeswoman said.
Ukraine was one of the world’s top grain exporters before Russia’s 2022 invasion reduced its ability to ship agricultural produce to global markets through Black Sea ports. Since then, Ukrainian farmers have relied on grain exports through neighbouring countries.
However, the flood of grains and oilseeds into neighbouring countries has impacted the income of local farmers and resulted in governments banning agricultural imports from Ukraine.
The European Union in May stepped in to prevent individual countries acting unilaterally and imposed its own ban on imports from Ukraine into neighbouring countries. Under the EU ban, Ukraine was allowed to export through those countries on condition the produce was sold elsewhere.
The EU allowed that ban to expire on Friday after Ukraine pledged to take measures to tighten control of exports to neighbouring countries.
The issue is a particularly sensitive one in Poland, which is facing elections in October and where farmers are a key electorate of the ruling nationalist PiS party.
Poland, Slovakia and Hungary all announced on Friday they would keep their own restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports despite the Commission’s decision.
“Our focus now is to put in place and make work the new system just announced,” the Commission spokeswoman said, adding a meeting with representatives of all the interested EU countries on Monday would provide an opportunity to discuss the issue further.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Christina Fincher)