The World Trade Organization confirmed on Tuesday that Ukraine had filed a complaint against Hungary, Poland and Slovakia after the three countries extended their bans on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products, breaking with the policy of ‘European Union.
Daniel Pruzin, a spokesman for the organization, said Ukraine filed a request for consultations late Monday, the first step in a dispute resolution process. Ukraine will hold talks with the three countries, but if no agreement is reached within 60 days, “Ukraine would then be free to ask a panel to rule on its claims,” Pruzin said.
Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a statement on Monday that the three countries, which are members of the European Union, cannot impose bans unilaterally and that trade policy is the responsibility of the authorities. of the block.
Poland, Slovakia and Hungary introduced their bans over the weekend, saying they were necessary to protect their own farmers who were complaining that cheap grain from Ukraine – one of the biggest global exporters – had undermined their own markets.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year, the European Union agreed to allow Ukrainian grain into the bloc without tariffs in order to support the country’s wartime economy and to alleviate a global food crisis caused by Russia’s naval blockade of Ukrainian ports. on the Black Sea.
But the tariff exemption backfired on Ukraine’s closest European neighbors, with tons of Ukrainian grain, significantly cheaper than its European equivalents, flooding those markets and causing prices in those countries to plummet.
Hoping to resolve the problem and quell growing unrest among farmers in Eastern European countries, the European Union temporarily banned imports of Ukrainian agricultural products to some countries, including Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, although the products were allowed to transit through these countries. When they lifted the ban on Friday, the three countries defied the bloc and said they would continue to ban the sale of Ukrainian grain within their borders.
Poland and Slovakia will hold general elections in the coming weeks and farmers in both countries will form a significant voting bloc. “We will take measures to defend the interests of Polish farmers,” Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said in a statement on Tuesday.
The dispute risks threatening the bloc’s cohesion in its support for Ukraine and complicating relations between Ukraine and its three neighbors, who are among Kiev’s staunchest war supporters.
On Tuesday, Janusz Wojciechowski, EU agriculture commissioner and member of Poland’s ruling party, appeared to toe his country’s line, expressing surprise that Ukraine had criticized the extension of the ban. Mr Wojciechowski told a news conference in Brussels that Ukrainian grain exports from May to July 2023, when the ban was in force, had increased compared to the same period last year.
In a statement on Friday regarding the expiration of the ban, the European Commission said it had ended “market distortions” but added that Ukraine would have to introduce legal measures within 30 days to prevent new ones.
Mykola Solskyi, Ukraine’s agriculture minister, said in a statement on Tuesday that exporters of four crops – corn, rapeseed, sunflower and wheat – must receive government permits to “control and regulate” flows to European countries. .
“We believe that such a work plan will satisfy all parties,” Mr. Solskyi said. “And even the three countries that currently oppose Ukrainian agricultural exports will also join this plan. Because we all have one goal: to win this terrible war.
Monika Pronczuk contributed reports