European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski believes that Ukrainian grain can, if necessary, also be transported across EU territory via ports in Germany and the Netherlands. In that case, the EU would have to pay for the extra transport costs, because otherwise the grain would be much too expensive.
Until now, shipping has mainly taken place from ports in Poland, the Baltic Sea countries, Bulgaria and Romania. Expansion of 'solidarity routes' to more distant ports has become necessary after Russia canceled the agreement for Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea in July. EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis has asked Moscow to revive that agreement.
Subsidizing Ukrainian transport costs is one of the variants being discussed this week in the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee. Sources say the European Commission does not yet have an extra budget and no clear way to help finance the extra transport costs
Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski will report on the latest state of affairs on Thursday, now that the temporary Ukrainian 'export ban' to the five EU neighboring countries expires on September 15. In recent months, the lifting of import duties to EU countries has led to many Ukrainian agricultural products ending up in those five neighboring countries, disrupting local markets there.
Those five countries have asked Brussels to extend the ban at least until the end of this year. Commissioner Wojciechowski actually agrees with that, but the other EU commissioners and EU countries think this is too big an anti-Ukraine measure.
Poland has warned that if the European Union does not give the green light to extend the restrictions, Warsaw will impose them unilaterally if necessary. Polish farmers would be prepared to block border crossings again. “Poland will certainly do it, Hungary will certainly do it,” Polish Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Robert Telus said yesterday.
The issue of Ukrainian grain imports thus threatens to lead to another diplomatic dispute between Poland and Ukraine in the middle of the already heated Polish election campaign. The future of the Polish agricultural sector and the relationship with Ukraine play a major role in this. Kiyv wants to become a member of the EU as soon as possible.
Just last week, the Polish Agricultural Federation published a report on the future and the necessary modernization of Polish agriculture. It warns, among other things, that Poland will not be able to compete with its Ukrainian neighbors in a few years' time.