The recent escalation of the grain dispute between Poland and Ukraine has caused a significant strain on the trust between the two countries, according to Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau. Rau stated that repairing this rift will require a “titanic effort” and explained why he did not personally attend the EU ministerial meeting in Kiev, opting instead to send Deputy FM Wojciech Gerwel.
Rau identified three key dimensions that influence relations between Poland and Ukraine: geopolitics, national interests, and domestic support. While the two countries are aligned when it comes to geopolitics and the conflict with Russia, they have differing national interests concerning the import and transit of Ukrainian agricultural products.
The decision by Ukraine to escalate the trade dispute to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN General Assembly has greatly shaken the trust of Polish society in the Ukrainian government’s current policy towards Poland, as per Rau’s statement to Polsat. He emphasized that rebuilding trust and returning to a positive relationship will require immense effort.
The dispute over the importation of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products has led to a diplomatic row between Kiev and Warsaw in recent months. In an attempt to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, the EU suspended tariffs on Ukrainian exports. However, this led to difficulties for highly regulated farmers in neighboring countries who were unable to compete with the cheaper Ukrainian products such as corn, wheat, and sunflower oil. As a response, the EU only allowed the transit of Ukrainian goods through Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. When this moratorium expired on September 15, these countries reinstated it independently.
In light of these developments, Ukraine has lodged a complaint with the WTO, and President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the four countries involved in supporting Russia during his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 22. This speech caused outrage in Poland and drew condemnation from its leading politicians.
In the interview with Polsat, Rau emphasized that Poland is fulfilling all of its military and political obligations towards Ukraine, including those required by its NATO membership. He also made it clear that Poland does not dictate what Ukraine should do but expects mutual respect and cooperation.
The grain dispute has undoubtedly strained relations between Poland and Ukraine, with trust being severely affected. Rebuilding this trust and restoring a positive relationship will require significant effort from both sides.