26 Feb 2024 13:25

EU will continue to support Ukraine's agricultural exports, while burden on land borders must be reduced - Head of EC

BRUSSELS. Feb 26 (Interfax) - EU support for Ukraine should be focused on restoring its export potential, specifically in the agricultural sector, while reducing the burden on its land borders, Head of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen said.

She expressed this opinion in Warsaw as part of a joint press statement with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Prime Minister of the Belgian EU Presidency Alexander De Croo.

Commenting specifically with regard to the ongoing situation on the Ukrainian-Polish border, which has been blocked by Polish farmers and carriers, von der Leyen announced the European Commission's plans to update the agreement on road transport, which will take Polish concerns fully into account. She said that exports from Ukraine along the Black Sea route were increasing significantly, which relieves, and will continue to relieve, pressure on land borders. She also said it was important that EU efforts be focused on supporting Ukraine as it restores its worldwide export potential.

The issue of unblocking the border with Poland must be resolved earlier than March 28, otherwise Ukraine reserves the right to apply tit-for-tat measures at its checkpoints, Ukrainian PM Denis Shmygal said.

"Today [February 23] there are more than 9,000 trucks at the border on both sides, and this issue needs to be resolved urgently. The trilateral headquarters [Ukraine, Poland, and European Commission] must work around the clock, and the issue of blocking the border must be resolved much earlier than March 28, the date when a joint meeting of the governments of Ukraine and Poland is supposed to take place. Otherwise, Ukraine reserves the right to apply tit-for-tat measures at its checkpoints," Shmygal said during a visit to the border with Poland on February 23.

The meeting of members of the Ukrainian and Polish governments at the border planned for February 23 did not take place, Shmygal said. Ukraine proposes a "plan of mutual understanding" for unblocking the border with Poland based on five steps. This plan, according to the Ukrainian prime minister, is fair and beneficial for Poland.

"We propose Ukraine's plan for unblocking the border. A plan of mutual understanding. Our plan consists of five steps. Step one: Ukraine agrees to the restrictions proposed by the European Commission on our agricultural exports. These are automatic protective measures presented as part of the European Commission's decision, which proposes to continue duty-free trade between the EU and Ukraine. These specifically refer to restrictions on poultry meat, eggs, and sugar," Shmygal said.

The PM said that Ukraine will export these goods to the EU without quotas and duties in volumes no greater than the averages for 2022 and 2023, and if exports increase, restrictions will return.

In addition, Ukraine is ready to continue to apply the mechanism for verifying the export of grain, corn, sunflower and rapeseed. This means that, without permission from Poland, these four groups of goods will not enter the Polish market.

The prime minister outlined the second step, where Ukraine sends an appeal to the European Commission with a proposal to conduct a review of the rules in force in agricultural policy and the transport sector.

"This is necessary in order to remove manipulations regarding the quality of our agricultural products once and for all, as well as to determine whether the support for our farmers meets the standards of the World Trade Organization. We say, let us do this quickly, and start on March 4," he said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's principled position is the complete liberalization of trade with the EU, he said.

"Step three: we propose that the Polish government accept a joint appeal to the European Commission calling for an end to Russian agricultural exports to the EU," the prime minister said.

In addition, Ukraine intends to appeal to the European Commission with a proposal to consider additional restrictions and enhanced monitoring of agricultural imports from third countries to the EU, as well as to launch joint controls at the border of Ukraine and the EU.

"Step four, we propose to create a "Trilateral Headquarters: Ukraine, Poland, the European Commission," co-chaired by the agricultural ministers of Ukraine, Poland and a representative of the European Commission. We will invite Ukrainian and Polish agricultural associations to join in on the work of this headquarters. We must work around the clock to promptly resolve all misunderstandings," Shmygal said.

The prime minister also said that, since the blockade of the border by Poland has already gone beyond just grain transportation, the approach to relatively free passage of certain groups of goods across the border should be extended to the fuel Ukraine critically needs; this is the fifth step.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced on February 22 that a meeting of representatives of the governments of Poland and Ukraine would be held in Warsaw on March 28.