23 Jan 2024 19:00

Czech Republic suggests bringing EU agricultural standards to Ukraine

MOSCOW. Jan 23 (Interfax) - The Czech Republic is proposing to introduce European agricultural standards and requirements to Ukraine, which now enjoys the right to duty-free exports of agricultural products to the EU, Czech Minister of Agriculture Marek Vyborny said.

A video of his remarks, made before the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, is posted on the European Commission website.

"If member states have conditions for farmers, for example, regarding feed formulations that are used to fatten chickens, then these conditions should also apply for poultry farmers in Ukraine," Vyborny said.

In general, the Czech Republic will support the European Commission's extension of the EU duty-free trade regime with Ukraine through June 2024 and insists that support for trade liberalization be the same for all EU countries.

"We know that the period of Ukraine's actual accession to the EU as part of market liberalization ends at the beginning of June. (...) This week the commission is due to publish its first draft resolution on exactly how support for Ukraine should continue. From the very beginning, the Czech Republic was clearly in favor of the opportunity to support Ukraine. We want the decision to be uniform," he said.

Vyborny said that the Czech Republic rejects the position shared by the five countries neighboring Ukraine, which chose "their own national procedures" by limiting imports of a number of Ukrainian agricultural products into their territory.

"We don't see this as a solution. We want a joint, unified European solution," the Czech minister emphasized.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic wants to know what impact Ukrainian agricultural imports are having on European agriculture. Wyborny intends to ask the EC, represented by European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, to conduct a study on the impact of Ukrainian agricultural products on the prices of goods in Europe and their volumes. They primarily influence trade in grain, chicken meat and other goods within the EU. Based on the results of this study and calculation of possible consequences, the EU should develop a mechanism to support Ukraine after June 2024.

Vyborny expressed confidence that the European Union would continue to support Ukraine.

"I assume that the European Council will support and expand these measures [liberalization of trade with Ukraine]. We must talk about creating conditions for open trade. The conditions for Ukraine must be the same as the conditions for member countries today in order to maintain the fair treatment of our producers, for example, of chicken meat or cereals, as well as of Ukrainian ones. If we have equal rules in the game, then we can continue to support Ukraine in this way. This is our duty," the Czech minister said.

Once the European Commission has conducted a study of the impact of Ukrainian agricultural products on the European market, the EU will need to begin discussing a revision of its pan-European agricultural policy, the Czech Minister of Agriculture said.

As reported, last week the ministers of agriculture of Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, in a joint letter to the European Commission, demanded the introduction of import duties on Ukrainian grain due to it being sold at dumping prices.

The duty-free trade regime between Ukraine and the EU, introduced in 2022, isofar as it reorients a significant part of Ukrainian agricultural exports to Europe, has led to cheap food from Ukraine ending up in the neighboring countries of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. This has sparked protests from local farmers.

Under pressure from these countries, the European Commission was forced to take special measures in May 2023, banning the import of Ukrainian food into these states (specifically, wheat, rapeseed, sunflower and corn). After the ban expired in mid-September, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, contrary to the will of the European Commission, introduced prohibitive measures at the national level. Moreover, Poland expanded its list of products prohibited for import to include rapeseed cake and meal, as well as corn bran, wheat flour and derivative products. Hungary's list includes 24 product items. Kiev responded by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Currently, WTO proceedings are suspended in anticipation of negotiations with the participation of the European Commission.

Negotiations are underway on the introduction by Ukraine of a mechanism for licensing the export of its agricultural products with mandatory verification in each of its five neighboring countries.