European Union chiefs have called out Poland and Hungary for prohibiting cheap Ukrainian grain imports, a policy which has enraged local farmers. In condemning the move, Brussels has looked to impose the view that trade problems are solely the responsibility of the European Commission and that individual countries cannot tailor their policies even in times of war.
A spokesman for the European Commission said: “Unilateral actions are not acceptable,
“In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the EU.”
Angry protests by Polish and Hungarian farmers at Ukrainian grain imports have resulted in the closure of town centres and border crossings throughout central Europe.
Poland’s development and technology minister confirmed on Sunday that an embargo, which went into effect on Saturday evening, will also apply to Ukrainian grain transit through Poland.
The minister also claimed that talks with Ukraine will be made to build a system to ensure that commodities only move through Poland and do not wind up in the local market.
These limits will be in effect until at least June 30.
The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, manages trade on behalf of the 27 member countries and objects to them taking unilateral or uncoordinated measures.
At a briefing in Brussels, two spokespeople stressed gratitude to Poland and other Central European countries for supporting Ukraine, but said a solution must be found that respects the EU legal framework.
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Chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said: “We are dealing with a war, right? And this war has consequences, obviously, on farmers and more generally, the population in Ukraine and the European Union and its member states
He acknowledged that Poland and other countries “have been doing their utmost in order to help Ukraine, adding: “So this is not about sanctioning.
“This is about finding solutions based on EU law in the interests at the same time of the Ukrainians and of the EU.”
Five EU countries that neighbour Ukraine have asked the EU to treat the matter of Ukrainian food with urgency.
Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia argue that they can’t allow their own farmers to bear the cost of disruption that Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products are causing to their markets.
The agriculture minister, Istvan Nagy, said: “The Hungarian government will always stand by Hungarian farmers and will protect Hungarian agriculture.”
He said the surge in Ukrainian products on European markets had made it “impossible” for Hungarian farmers to remain competitive.
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