21 Sep 2023 22:11

EU will not accept EU members' unilateral decisions on Ukrainian agricultural exports - spokesperson

BRUSSELS. Sept 21 (Interfax) - The European Union's trade policy is beyond the remit of its member states, and their unilateral decision on Ukraine may result in legal action from the European Commission (EC), its spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer has said.

"Trade policy is of EU exclusive competence, which means that member states are not allowed to take unilateral measures. Our focus now is to engage constructively with all parties [of Ukrainian grain dispute] to find a solution," Ferrer told a briefing in Brussels on Thursday.

As a result of such work, Ukraine had submitted to the coordination platform a draft plan on how to resolve the issue, providing for a system of checks and balances to be introduced quickly, she said.

"The Commission reserves the right to launch an infringement procedure against those countries that have introduced unilateral bans but the scenario we are aiming for is to find constructively a solution [...] and there is no need to have measures at national level," Ferrer said.

Asked if the EC would participate in the defense of the EU countries that Ukraine has complained about to the World Trade Organization, she confirmed it was the EC's duty to do so.

Because the trade policy is EU-wide, the EC has to represent the three countries (Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) in the WTO, and is already in contact with them, and the process must continue at the EU level, she said.

Asked to explain how the prospect of the EC's own legal proceedings against those countries would combine with their defense in the WTO, Ferrer said that, firstly, such proceedings were possible but not in place yet, and secondly, the WTO process was at its earliest stage, that of EC-Ukraine consultations, meaning the conflict could yet be settled out of court.

The calculation that a constructive, positive decision might be reached is being proved by the reports that Ukraine was withdrawing its complaint against Slovakia, Ferrer said. Although yet to be examined, the situation is testament to the potential of negotiating tools, she said.

Hungary, Poland and Slovakia imposed unilateral bans after the EU's restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural exports were lifted on September 15. Ukraine filed complaints to the WTO, accusing the three countries of discriminating against its agricultural products.

On Thursday, a number of media outlets reported that Ukraine and Slovakia had found a solution for settling their differences on the agricultural market.