ASlovakia also wants to temporarily suspend imports of grain and other agricultural products from Ukraine. This was announced by the government in Pressburg (Bratislava) on Monday. Like Poland and Hungary before it, Slovakia wants to take this step without prior involvement of the European Commission in order to protect domestic farmers from Ukrainian agricultural products.
Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, it has no longer been possible to transport them by sea across the Black Sea in the usual quantities, which is why exports are increasingly being carried out overland via neighboring countries to the west. As a result, the supply is also increasing massively in these countries themselves, where large quantities are stored and come onto the market.
Several Central European EU member states had approached Brussels in March with a demand for tariffs, but to no avail. As a result, first Poland, then Hungary and now Slovakia decided to stop imports until the end of June. According to the responsible minister, Bulgaria is also considering such a step. In that time, according to the capitals, a European solution should be found. The EU Commission has criticized the introduction of unilateral trade measures for which Brussels alone is responsible.
Warning against anti-Ukrainian sentiments
Slovakia’s Ministry of Agriculture said it had proposed to ban the import of 11 different agricultural and food products from Ukraine into Slovakia; in addition to cereals, these include fruit and vegetables, dry food, sugar, hops, wine, honey and bee products. Agriculture Minister Samuel Vlčan said he had exhausted his powers to protect the domestic agricultural market from dumping prices.
Ukraine is calling for the import ban to be lifted. On Monday, the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture Mykola Solskyj and his Polish colleague Robert Telus met in Warsaw. The first step should be to open up the transit of agricultural products through Poland to other markets, Solsky said before the meeting.
Poland has been Ukraine’s largest economic partner since the outbreak of war. According to Kiev data, in 2022 Ukraine exported goods worth 6.7 billion dollars to the neighboring country. But farmers’ protests against the imports put the government under pressure, also with a view to the parliamentary elections in the fall. In particular, the movement led by radical peasant leader Michal Kolodziejczak has built up pressure. But on Monday he was critical of the actions of the Warsaw government. “I warned that grain could create anti-Ukrainian sentiment, and PiS is starting to play with this sentiment,” he told the gazeta.pl portal, attacking the ruling party. Instead of sending such a signal a few months before the election, she could have asked the EU to reintroduce tariffs a long time ago. Representatives of the liberal opposition also accused the government of inaction.
Meanwhile, there are new problems with Ukraine’s grain exports across the Black Sea. The blockade of this route by Russia as a result of the war had led to the diversion of millions of tons of exports, mainly via Poland and Romania. A grain agreement that released sea exports again with strict controls eased the situation somewhat. It is valid until May 18th. But now, according to Kiev sources, Russia has again blocked the inspection of ships in Turkish waters, as provided for in the agreement.