The EU will soon allow Ukraine to once again export several types of previously embargoed foods to five of its neighbors, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Wednesday.
- “[European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen promised me personally that after the 15th [of September] there will be no continuation of the restrictions. We believe that,” Zelensky said in a press conference with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, who is visiting Kiev.
Duda said he hoped the restrictions would be lifted “as soon as possible” to allow free trade.
- However, according to the Ukrainian outlet Hromadske, he said that some issues “need to be streamlined first” in order to “avoid certain phenomena that have a very negative economic and social impact,” all of which will take time.
Following the escalation of hostilities with Russia last year, the EU suspended all tariffs on exports from Ukraine. This resulted in cheap Ukrainian produce flooding the markets in the neighboring Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and nearby Bulgaria. With their farmers unable to adjust prices due to EU agricultural policies, several of those countries moved to ban Ukrainian imports in April.
Brussels responded by asserting EU supremacy in trade policy.
In early May, the bloc imposed “temporary restrictions” on imports of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil to the five countries.
- The official reason given was “serious logistical bottlenecks and limited grain storage capacity.” However, transit of the aforementioned goods was still permitted. The ban was initially supposed to last for 30 days, but was extended through September 15.
Ukraine has been able to export grain to the EU using the Black Sea Initiative, a deal mediated by the UN and Türkiye last July.
Though the arrangement was presented as helping Africa and parts of Asia deal with food shortages, much of the 30 million tons of grain exported ended up in the EU as animal feed.
The deal was also supposed to remove Western restrictions on exports of Russian grain and fertilizer – which never happened.
- After extending the arrangement in May, Moscow has announced it would no longer do so once it expires in July.