The European Union lifts the import restrictions on Ukrainian cereals.

Un champ de blé près de Nikolske, dans la région de Donetsk (Ukraine), le 19 juillet 2023.

She waited until the last moment to announce her decision. On Friday, September 15th, the European Commission decided to remove all restrictions on the import of cereals from Ukraine to all twenty-seven member states starting from Saturday.

The institution responsible for the European Union’s (EU) trade policy decided to block the exports of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds to five neighboring countries: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. These countries claimed that these exports were destabilizing their domestic market and reducing the income of their farmers. As a result, they unilaterally banned the passage of Ukrainian cereals through their territory starting from mid-April.

In light of this unprecedented situation, the Commission eventually provided support to these five countries through an exceptional financial aid of several tens of millions of euros, accompanied by a limited embargo specifically targeting these five member states.

If Sofia had announced on Thursday her intention to lift all blockades, the other countries were not on the same page. On Friday, even before the announcement of the decision, Hungarian Viktor Orban had declared that he would continue the embargo. In the evening, a few minutes after the Commission’s statement, Poland and Slovakia did the same, openly defying Brussels.

“I cannot reword”

Rassurer les pays limitrophes de l’Ukraine

The two countries are particularly sensitive to these issues as they are in the midst of an election campaign. However, in Poland, the ruling party’s electoral base, PiS (Law and Justice), is strong in agricultural regions. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, stated on X (formerly Twitter) that “as long as PiS is in power, we will protect the Polish countryside from any threat. Unlike our predecessors, we do not hesitate to say to Brussels: STOP.”

For the European Commission, the reaction of the three countries is more than problematic. “We could not perpetuate exceptional safeguard measures, which by nature must be limited in time,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice-president of the European executive, present in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) for a meeting of EU finance ministers. Especially since there is no longer any distortion in national cereal markets.

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