13 Feb 2024 13:07

European Commission urges Poland, Slovakia, Hungary to lift restrictions on Ukrainian agrifood imports

MOSCOW. Feb 13 (Interfax) - European Commission Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis has urged Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to lift unilateral restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports, considering that the European Union has devised alternative mechanisms that should help safeguard European farmers from oversupply of Ukrainian agricultural produce.

Dombrovskis has attended debates at the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The European Commission has published a video of his remarks on its official website.

The European Commission previously imposed temporary measures to protect countries neighboring Ukraine from imports of such raw materials as wheat, rapeseed, sunflower, and corn, Dombrovskis said. The European Commission and Ukraine later developed an export control mechanism, which is now functioning between Ukraine and Romania, he said.

"This mechanism is not really functioning with, for example, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, as those countries continue to apply unilateral restrictions which contradict both EU exclusive competencies in the area of trade policy and also obligations under this [free-trade agreement] FTA with Ukraine and the [World Trade Organization] WTO," Dombrovskis said.

The European Commission has also proposed introducing autonomous trade measures for countries experiencing negative effects of Ukrainian exports on their markets, particularly as regards "the most sensitive products" such as eggs, sugar, and sunflower oil, for which the European Commission has proposed a maximum quota based on average import data for 2022-2023.

Dombrovskis also said the functioning of "solidarity lanes" remains relevant, even though Ukraine has resumed exports via the Black Sea.

It was reported earlier that the suspension of import duties in Ukraine-EU trade in 2022 resulted in low-cost products from Ukraine ending up in neighboring countries, as Ukraine diverted much of its agricultural export to Europe. This situation sparked local farmers' protests. The agricultural sector of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria sustained the biggest losses.

Yielding to pressure from these countries, the European Commission was forced to take exceptional and temporary preventive measures in May 2023, banning the import of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. After the ban was lifted in mid-September, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, acting against the European Commission's will, imposed import restrictions at the national level. Poland expanded the list of banned imports to include rapeseed cake and meal, as well as corn bran, wheat flour, and derivatives. Hungary expanded the list to 24 items. Kiev responded by lodging a complaint with the WTO. All negotiations involving the European Commission have been suspended as the WTO reviews the complaint.

The Ukrainian government, seeking to unblock the export of agricultural products to the EU, began requiring local exporters to verify and license the exports of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.