Emergency meeting on Polish protests against free export of Ukrainian grain

The presidents of Poland and Ukraine, Andrzej Duda and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will meet in the near future, possibly as soon as this weekend.

The two heads of state must find a solution to the renewed threat of blocking border crossings by protesting Polish farmers. Poland is also in danger of coming into conflict with the trade and customs rules of the European Union.

A government spokesman in Warsaw declined to reveal details about the place and time of the meeting between Duda and Zelensky, citing "security aspects." In recent weeks, relations between the two neighboring countries have seriously cooled over the grain issue, in the midst of the heated campaign for the Polish parliamentary elections on October 15.

On Tuesday, Ukraine warned it could seek international arbitration against restrictions on its grain exports. A temporary ban expires this weekend, which five EU neighbors ('the frontline states') believe should be extended.

The temporary restrictions imposed in May allowed Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while allowing transit elsewhere.

They believe that (cheap, partly supported by the EU) Ukrainian agricultural products should not end up on the market in their countries. However, they may be transported (in sealed containers) by road and rail. 

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski agrees, but the other EU commissioners do not. In addition, the LNV commissioner from Poland believes that the EU should provide a subsidy for the additional transport costs of Ukrainian grain to EU ports.

As a result, the issue is creating tensions not only between Warsaw and Kyiv, but also between Warsaw and Brussels, and also between the 27 EU commissioners.

The issue was also discussed at length in the European Parliament and in the weekly meeting of the European Commission on Tuesday and Wednesday. This also included large delegations from those five countries. The current 'export ban' expires on Friday. Wojciechowski and the opposing Poles and Hungarians need a new Commission decision for an extension and for additional subsidies.

Brussels could reportedly cooperate in a very short extension, of a maximum of two months, but well beyond the Polish parliamentary elections.

The fact that agriculture in those five countries is being damaged because the EU has lifted the quotas and import tariffs of non-EU country Ukraine is a major point of contention in the election rhetoric between Polish supporters and opponents of European agricultural policy.