29 Feb 2024 18:20

Lithuania is preparing for the main road to Europe to be blocked by Polish farmers

VILNIUS. Feb 29. (Interfax/BNS) - The Lithuanian authorities intend to redirect traffic flows in connection with the plans of some Polish farmers to partially block traffic for a week through the former Kalwaria-Budzisko border checkpoint on the border of Poland and Lithuania, which is located on the Via Baltica international highway.

Head of the National Crisis Management Center, Vilmantas Vitkauskas, said at a press conference on Thursday that starting Friday, freight transport will be partially redirected to the former Lazdijai checkpoint. This should help ease traffic somewhat.

In addition, negotiations are underway with the Polish government on the possibility of opening the Lazdijai-Augustow road, where trucks weighing up to 12 tonnes are currently allowed to move, Chancellor of the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport and Communications Ramunas Dilba said at a press conference.

"We are working on an action plan. We have made and are making every effort to avoid blocking the road, but it is unlikely that we will be able to achieve this tomorrow, and partial checks of vehicles and trucks will be conducted. Our Polish colleagues assured us that this will not cause serious obstacles and queues, but we must prepare for the worst-case scenario," Vitkauskas said.

"We also have assurances from the Polish authorities that we will be able to redirect some of the heavy transport to the Lazdijai border checkpoint, which will free up traffic a little," he added.

Dilba noted that on average about 6,600 trucks pass through the former Kalwaria-Budzisko border crossing every day.

"This is a large flow. This is the main transport artery for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, connecting them with the West. Obviously, any restriction on the free movement of goods will cause problems with logistics, and carriers will suffer some damages," Dilba said.

Authorities are preparing for the worst-case scenario and will try to redirect traffic flows, he said.

A nationwide farmers' strike started in Poland on February 9. The main demands of the strikers are an adjustment to the European Commission's "green" course in order to limit the flow of Ukrainian agricultural products to the Polish market, as well as increase the profitability of agricultural production. During the protests, the farmers are blocking Ukrainian-Polish border crossings.

Polish farmers are preparing for two new blockades starting March 1, one at the former Polish-German border checkpoint in the town of Swiecie and another on the road at the former Lithuanian-Polish border checkpoint Kalwaria-Budzisko. Farmers will check the contents of trucks, especially agricultural cargo. "The question of blocking the Lithuanian border arose when thinking about how to increase pressure on the Polish government and about the possibly not entirely legal transportation of agricultural products between Poland and Lithuania," protest organizer Karol Pieczynski said.

The chairman of the Lithuanian Grain Producers Association Ausris Macijauskas, says the suspicions of Polish farmers that Ukrainian grain transported from Poland to Lithuania is being returned or processed and re-exported as Lithuanian goods are justified.

Via Baltica is a 970-kilometer section of European route E67 running between Tallinn and Warsaw. It provides road transport through the Baltic countries. The E67 connects Helsinki (Finland) and Prague (Czech Republic).