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Poland reaches deal with farmers to call off blockade of Ukraine border crossing

Poland reaches deal with farmers to call off blockade of Ukraine border crossing

by host

Polish farmers ended a blockade of a Poland-Ukraine border crossing after reaching an agreement with Warsaw that met their demands, defusing a dispute that had become an early test of the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Newly appointed Polish Agriculture Minister Czesław Siekierski signed the deal with Polish farmers blockading the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing with Ukraine late Saturday. The protest — which started over a month ago — was called off on December 24 following an agreement with the government, but it resumed on Wednesday amid farmers’ mistrust over the deal.

Farmers accused the new Polish government of failing to defend them against Ukrainian grain imports, but also demanded a series of financial support measures. Saturday’s deal finally implemented those financial demands — which include launching corn production subsidies, maintaining agricultural taxes at 2023 levels and increasing preferential liquidity loans — but didn’t include restrictions on Ukraine imports.

The measures “will be implemented after the legislative process is completed and acceptance by the European Commission is obtained,” the Polish Agriculture Ministry said.

Despite calling off the blockade, protesting farmers said that the “most important” demand now is “to limit the inflow of goods from Ukraine.” EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told Polish media on Friday that he would demand an EU-wide restriction on items like sugar, eggs and poultry from Ukraine.

“These imports are growing in a way that threatens the competitiveness of the EU sector, including Polish poultry and sugar production,” he said. The Polish commissioner has already clashed with other members of the European Commission over full trade liberalization with Ukraine, which the EU executive is expected to recommend as early as next week.

“Ukraine is such a country that they just want to take, take, take, and give nothing back,” Roman Kondrów, one of the protest leaders, told POLITICO by phone on Thursday, warning about the risks of allowing the country to join the EU without restrictions.

In the meantime, Polish truckers are continuing to protest as they want the government to end an EU-Ukraine agreement that liberalized road transport rules in an effort to help the Ukrainian economy, crippled by the Russian invasion.

Underpinning the narratives of both groups are doomsday scenarios about the impact on Poland of Ukraine one day becoming a member of the EU. At a summit in December, EU leaders agreed to open accession talks with Ukraine.

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