The government in Kiev has stated that it will take the European Union (EU) to arbitration if the bloc extends its restriction on Ukrainian agricultural exports beyond September 15. Igor Zhovkva, President Vladimir Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff, made this announcement on Friday. Zhovkva referred to the trade pact with the EU signed after the 2014 coup, stating that if the European Commission extends its decision on Ukraine’s grain imports, Ukraine will complain to the arbitration panel under the agreement.
Zhovkva also argued that the EU must react if Poland extends the ban on its own, as it would violate EU single-market rules. Poland and Hungary have warned that they would implement unilateral measures if the EU ban were to expire. Poland has played a crucial role in supporting Ukraine through its assistance and has actively facilitated NATO efforts to provide Ukraine with money, weapons, and ammunition.
The EU has opened its market to Ukrainian exports to show support for Kiev in its conflict against Russia. However, this policy has resulted in a surplus of cheap wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower oil from Ukraine flooding the heavily regulated EU markets. To address this issue, Poland introduced a ban on Ukrainian grain imports in April, followed by Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. In response, the EU imposed a temporary moratorium on Ukrainian imports to these countries in May, allowing for transit of the goods to the rest of the bloc. The moratorium, which has already been extended once, is set to expire on September 15.
According to Zhovkva, Ukraine is not satisfied with the transit arrangement either, as Poland de facto blocks the transit by increasing the time of foodstuff checks at the border. He referred to it as a blockade. However, with the upcoming general election in October, Warsaw is unlikely to change its stance. Poland’s Agriculture Minister, Robert Telus, announced that he would seek an extension of the import ban until the end of 2023.
Jadwiga Emilewicz, the Polish state secretary for development cooperation with Ukraine, highlighted that Poland has an obligation to protect its farmers first. While Poland is willing to allow increased transit of Ukrainian goods, Emilewicz stated that the EU would need to provide a subsidy of 30 euros per ton passing through Polish territory.
The dispute over Ukrainian grain exports has become a contentious issue between Ukraine, Poland, and the EU. Ukraine argues that the restrictions on its exports are unfair and go against the trade agreement signed with the EU. Poland, on the other hand, asserts its right to protect its domestic farmers and calls for financial compensation for facilitating transit. Both sides seem determined to defend their positions, with Kiev threatening to go to arbitration if the EU extends its restrictions. The outcome of this dispute will have significant implications for trade relations between Ukraine and the EU, as well as for the stability of the agricultural markets in the region.