N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of crops such as sunflower oil, wheat, barley and maize. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year all but closed the main Black Sea shipping lanes and forced Ukraine to find alternative overland routes. That in turn led to large quantities of grain ending up in central Europe. Farmers in those countries, threatened in their economic survival, have since held protest rallies, saying that Ukrainian grain shipments were undercutting them and distorting local markets.
This pressure led to the agreeing by the European Commission earlier this year to trade restrictions on Ukraine’s imports into Hungary, Poland, Slovakia as well as Bulgaria and Romania until 15 September. Although the situation did not really change, on the deadline day the Commission decided not to extend the ban. The governments in Budapest, Warsaw and Bratislava defied the Commission’s move, announcing their own restrictions.
In a statement Ukraine let know that ’it is crucially important for us to prove that individual EU member states cannot ban import of Ukrainian goods. That is why we are filing lawsuits against them (Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) to the World Trade Organisation. Poland said already it would keep its ban regardless, ‘A complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us’.
Poland and Slovakia are two of the strongest key Ukraine’s allies in the fight against the Russian invasion. But for Kiev grain export seems more important than strong support in the war with Russia.