Poland gives EU “ultimatum” on Ukrainian grain imports

Poland gives EU “ultimatum” on Ukrainian grain imports
Farmers are an important voter cohort in Poland. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw September 13, 2023

Poland has sent the European Union an “ultimatum” demanding the extension of the bloc’s ban on Ukrainian grain imports beyond the current deadline of September 15 or the ban will be extended unilaterally by Warsaw, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on September 12.

Poland claims that the return of grain flows to the EU under an earlier EU-Ukraine agreement would hit the domestic market, depressing prices. The Law and Justice (PiS) government is also seeking to cultivate support ahead of the election due on October 15. Farmers are an important voter cohort in Poland.

"I sent an ultimatum to the European Commission. A clear demand: either you extend the ban on the import of 4 Ukrainian grains by October 15th, or we will extend this ban ourselves," Morawiecki said at a meeting on his campaign trail in the town of Kosow Lacki.

Poland and four other EU member states bordering Ukraine had placed national restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine, pushing the EU to institute a bloc-wide ban, which expires on September 15. Poland and Hungary have maintained a hardline stance against Ukrainian imports but other affected member states – Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria – have since softened their positions. 

The EU has long said that the ban is an exception to the bloc’s trade rules and will not be extended. The restrictions cover wheat, corn, sunflower seeds and rapeseed

The Polish ban will not cover Ukrainian produce just transiting through Poland to be exported on to other countries, including other EU member states. 

The ban is all but certain to elicit an angry reaction from Kyiv, which has long said that it will take legal action against those EU member states that impose national bans against EU-wide trade rules.

The EU allowed Ukrainian grain imports as part of its  response to Russia's blocking Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, Kyiv's main trade route for its agricultural produce.

Poland, a staunch Ukraine ally in its war against Russia’s aggression, says the ban on Ukrainian imports has nothing to do with supporting Kyiv’s war effort.

“Ukraine must understand that Poland's security is as important as its own security. It is Russia, not Polish farmers, that is to pay for the war,” Morawiecki said.