Polish officials are concerned about potential retaliation from individual European Union (EU) member states if they go ahead with their plans to exclude Ukrainian grain from their market, local media reports have stated. Up to 20 out of the 27 EU countries oppose extending the current ban on the importation of certain Ukrainian products by five neighboring nations, namely Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria. These five countries have requested that the ban remains in place until the end of the year, rather than expiring on September 15.
The ban was initially imposed by the European Commission at the request of Poland, with the support of the aforementioned countries. In response, Polish Agriculture Minister, Robert Telus, stated last month that if the EU does not accede to their request, Poland would unilaterally impose a ban on Ukrainian grain instead. In April, Poland had previously enacted such a ban, which was reluctantly backed by the European Commission the following month.
RFM radio, citing sources, has claimed that Polish authorities are worried about potential unilateral retaliation from countries such as Germany, which would likely act more quickly than the European Commission. However, one source suggested that Romania does not want a confrontation. If the other border countries agree to lift the ban and only Poland and Hungary continue with it, the outlet alleges that Brussels would respond strongly.
Aside from this issue, the five nations are also involved in discussions with the European Commission and Ukraine over possible EU subsidies for grain transit. Reportedly, Brussels could spend up to €30 ($32.60) per ton of grain to enhance the profitability of Ukrainian exports. The aim of this measure is to maintain the profitability of Ukrainian exports despite the transportation costs. Poland and its allies are seeking to link these subsidies to the continuation of restrictions on imports.
It is worth noting that the EU lifted import tariffs and quotas on Ukrainian products last year in order to support the country’s efforts in its conflict with Russia. However, the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain caused turmoil in Eastern European markets and triggered mass protests by farmers.
Given the complex dynamics at play, it remains to be seen how the situation will unfold. If Poland proceeds with its threat to reimpose trade sanctions, it is possible that other EU member states could retaliate. This could potentially lead to further tensions and disagreements within the bloc. As developments continue to unfold, it will be crucial to monitor the responses from all parties involved and their potential impact on trade relations.