Kiev neighbors defy EU ban lift, shut down Ukraine grain corridor
The EU began restricting grain imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia in May in an attempt to protect farmers.
The European Union announced the lifting of an import embargo on Ukrainian grain in five member countries after Kiev committed to limit shipments.
In May, the EU began banning grain imports to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia in order to safeguard domestic farmers, who blamed the imports for a drop in local market prices.
The European Commission announced that "existing measures will expire today" when they run out at midnight.
"The market distortions in the 5 Member States bordering Ukraine have disappeared," according to the EU's executive arm.
According to the commission, the decision was made after Kiev committed to implementing safeguards, including an export license system within 30 days in order to "avoid grain surges."
Meanwhile, it stated that Ukraine will implement steps to regulate wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed exports in order to prevent disrupting markets in its EU neighbors.
Over the past year, the European Union has emerged as a major transit route and export destination for Ukrainian grain.
On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he had delivered an ultimatum to the European Commission on the renewal of the ban on Ukrainian grain imports.
In late August, the Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said Ukraine's EU neighboring countries are collectively calling for the extension of the ban on Ukrainian grain imports until the end of the year.
In a recent announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia is prepared to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal on the same day that its conditions for exporting its grain and fertilizers to global markets are met.
This development comes after Russia withdrew from the agreement in July, just a year after it was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. The primary grievances cited were obstacles faced by Russian food and fertilizer exports and the inadequate distribution of Ukrainian grain to countries in need.
Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia defy EU decision
Poland announced Friday it would extend the ban on Ukrainian grain, opposing the European Commission's decision.
Government spokesman Piotr Muller told PAP state news that Poland does "not agree with the European Commission's decision and in the interest of Polish farmers and consumers, we are introducing national measures," adding that "a government order extending the embargo on Ukrainian grain will be issued and published today."
Poland warned that in case the bloc refuses to extend the ban, it would implement it unilaterally.
Hungary also defied the European Commission's decision, announcing that it would close its borders to "24 Ukrainian products," up from four previously, according to Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy.
Nagy explained that the move is aimed at safeguarding the farmers of Hungary, adding that it "includes cereals, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, flour, cooking oil, honey, certain meats, and eggs".
Slovakia, on its part, imposed a ban on grain from Ukraine following the European Commission's decision not to extend import restrictions.
Speaking of four commodities - wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds - the government said in a statement that it had "decided to ban their import at the national level until the end of the year."
Brussels "did not extend the import ban on four commodities from Ukraine... so the Slovak government has decided to ban their import at the national level until the end of the year," Bratislava said Friday.
"We must prevent excessive pressure on the Slovak market in order to remain fair to domestic farmers," it added, saying it was following in the footsteps of Hungary and Poland.
Bratislava said it will work toward "a pan-European, systematic solution and is prepared to cancel the ban in such a case."