A decision by a local mayor earlier this week to disband one of the blockades on Poland’s border with Ukraine has been overturned by a court. One of the protest leaders says they now plan to resume the blockade on Monday.
Earlier this week, Wojciech Sawa, mayor of the Dorohusk district, announced that he was withdrawing permission for Polish truckers – who have been blocking four border crossings with Ukraine since early November in protest at what they say is unfair Ukrainian competition – to hold their protest.
He argued that the demonstrators had failed to comply with the agreed terms of the protest and were causing “a large-scale threat to property” and “the blocking of road traffic”. The truckers complied with the order but also launched a challenge against it in court.
One of the blockades of the Ukraine border by Polish truckers has been disbanded by the local mayor
Traffic at the crossing has returned to normal for the first time since early November, when the protest began and forced drivers to wait for days to cross https://t.co/GFbjDtevOn
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 11, 2023
Today, the district court in Lublin issued a ruling overturning the mayor’s decision, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP). The judge, Piotr Ryng, did not agree with the mayor’s arguments regarding threats to property and possible disruption of public order.
“The purpose of this [protest] is not to prevent checks at the border crossing [or] to stop vehicular traffic there, but is primarily intended to slow it down and assumes the priority passing of emergency and military vehicles, perishable cargo and humanitarian aid,” said the judge.
He noted that this form of protest is a legally permissible way of putting pressure on the authorities, “especially in cases where mechanisms of dialogue fail…Perhaps the problem with be solved by the new government, but so far no solution has been presented to the protesters”.
The mayor can appeal against the ruling within 24 hours, but if he does not do so then it goes into force on Monday. Sawa told PAP on Friday that he has not yet decided whether to challenge the court’s decision.
Protest na granicy z Ukrainą. Sąd uchylił decyzję wójta w sprawie blokady https://t.co/PZk6ME6Irl pic.twitter.com/pcmI7QFtJf
— Money.pl (@Money_pl) December 15, 2023
One of the protest leaders, Edyta Ozygała, expressed satisfaction with the ruling. “Dorohusk did not fall! we are going back to the border!” she told PAP, saying that they would resume the blockade on Monday, or Tuesday at the latest.
On Thursday this week, the infrastructure minister in Poland’s new government, Dariusz Klimczak, met in Lublin with representatives of the protests being held at two other border crossings, Hrebenne and Korczowa.
“He was willing to listen to us, so I get the impression that he wants to address the problem and solve it,” one of the protest leaders, Jacek Sokół, told financial news service Money.pl. “I thanked him for listening, because he didn’t say that ‘it’s impossible’ like the previous government.
Nowy minister przy granicy. Protestujący: różnica jest znacząca https://t.co/kMuVKWoB2h pic.twitter.com/UexDAdhf4i
— Money.pl (@Money_pl) December 14, 2023
Polish truckers argue that, after the EU lifted its permit system for Ukrainian hauliers following the Russian invasion, the market was “flooded” with firms from Ukraine that could undercut them on price because of their lower costs and not having to comply with the same regulations. They want the permit system restored.
The EU, however, has ruled out that possibility, with transport commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean saying last week that it was up to Poland itself to resolve the situation and end the protest.
Ukraine has also condemned the blockade and called on the EU to send a team to monitor the situation at the border. Today, the Ukrainian economy minister estimated that the protest has so far caused the country to lose 9.2 billion hryvnias (€228 million; 987 million zloty) in revenue from customs at the border.
The EU and Poland have clashed over the blockade of Ukraine’s border by Polish hauliers
Warsaw has demanded a return to the prewar entry permit system for Ukrainian trucks. But the @EU_Commission has rejected that idea and called for an end to the protest https://t.co/sFqNmAb8p6
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 5, 2023
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Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.