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UPDATE 2: Polish farmers block Ukrainian border in protest against cheap imports

21.02.2024 09:30
Polish farmers have blocked the country's border with Ukraine and disrupted traffic nationwide in an intensifying protest against what they say are unfair European Union policies leading to an influx of cheap produce from Ukraine. 
Polish farmers protest at the Medyka border crossing with Ukraine on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.
Polish farmers protest at the Medyka border crossing with Ukraine on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

On Tuesday, protesters at the Medyka border crossing spilled Ukrainian grain on railway tracks, according to reports.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov condemned the act, calling it "another political provocation aimed at dividing our nations."

Ukraine says the blockades are affecting its defence capability and helping Russia's aims, the Reuters news agency reported.

Kubrakov said in an X post on Wednesday that "Ukraine will use an additional route across the Danube River to increase exports, at least to pre-war levels."

He added: "This is a matter of our survival, as the Polish blockade of agricultural products effectively stops the land border with the European Union. In the near future, we will launch container transportation across the Upper Danube. The new route will run from the Ukrainian port of Izmail to Romania's Constanta and the Danube ports of Germany. We invite global businesses to consider this stable and predictable route."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week that the situation at the border with Poland demonstrated "the erosion of solidarity on a daily basis."

"We need common decisions, rational decisions, to resolve this situation," he added.

Poland's government has sympathized with the protesters' demands but also urged them not to take actions that could jeopardize Ukraine's war effort against Russia, news agencies reported.

Polish Agriculture Minister Czesław Siekierski has voiced understanding for the farmers and said that he is negotiating a deal to limit Ukrainian imports.

The Polish protest comes amid a wave of similar demonstrations in other EU countries and reflects broader discontent among agricultural producers across the bloc.

Farmers in France, Belgium, Portugal, Greece and Germany have been protesting against EU measures to tackle climate change as well as rising costs and unfair competition from abroad, according to Reuters.

Polish farmers have long been voicing their concerns over the impact of cheap food imports from Ukraine, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

Photo: Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło

"Our patience has run out," they said in a statement released earlier this month. "Brussels' position ... is unacceptable for our entire agricultural community," they added.

Polish farmers from the Solidarity trade union in early February announced "a general strike," criticising the government for being passive in the face of growing imports of farm produce from Ukraine.

The protests across Europe come in the wake of an EU decision in 2022 to waive duties on Ukrainian food imports, Reuters reported.


Source: IAR, PAP, Reuters, Ukrinform, president.gov.ua