Poland will not let Ukraine joining EU without grain restrictions, says minister

Poland will not allow Ukraine to join the EU unless measures are put in place to restrict the entry of its agricultural products, says the Polish agriculture minister. As an example of the type of tools that should be used, he cited Poland’s complete ban on Ukrainian grain imports and transit introduced earlier this year.

“In current conditions, Polish agriculture would never win against Ukrainian agriculture,” Robert Telus told broadcaster Radio Plus. “There [in Ukraine] there are hundreds of thousands of farms; it is a completely different [kind of] agriculture. That is why we have such a strong stance.”

Telus: jeżeli nie zbudujemy narzędzi, to na pewno Polska się nie zgodzi na Ukrainę w Unii Europejskiej https://t.co/xFP3Sp9VIt

— Marta Gordziewicz (@MGordziewicz) September 13, 2023

“Today we have to build tools [to restrict entry of]…Ukrainian products,” added the minister. “This is what we are doing now [by seeking to extend an EU import ban on Ukrainian grain], this is what we did on 15 April [when Poland introduced a unilateral import and transit ban].”

“If we do not build these tools today, Poland will certainly not agree to Ukraine joining the EU,” Telus declared.

When the interviewer pointed out that one of the foundations of the EU is its common market, the minister responded: “When Poland joined the European Union, we had to meet conditions. And these conditions were imposed on us very rigorously. And we must set conditions for Ukraine.”

„Poland supports an express path for Ukraine’s membership of the EU,” said President @AndrzejDuda today.

He called for Ukraine to be granted official candidate status „immediately” https://t.co/2NqSbraVYU

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 26, 2022

In late April, following Poland’s unilateral ban, the EU authorised five eastern member states – Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia – to ban the import of Ukrainian grain while allowing transit through their territories to continue. That embargo is due to expire tomorrow, but the quintet have called for it to be extended.

Reports have previously indicated that the rest of the EU’s member states are not in favour of an extension. However, today the EU’s agriculture commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, told Polskie Radio that there “will probably be an extension, everything is heading in this direction”.

The Polish government has repeatedly warned that, if the embargo is not extended, it will reintroduce a unilateral ban. That would likely violate EU rules, which give Brussels competence over trade. Ukraine has also threatened legal action against Poland and the EU if the ban is extended or a new one is introduced.

Poland has reiterated that it will unilaterally block the import of Ukrainian grain if the EU does not extend a ban due to expire this week.

„Regardless of what Brussels officials decide, we will not open our borders,” says the prime minister https://t.co/b9D95r1pUX

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 12, 2023

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Poland has been one of Kyiv’s closest allies, including calling for Ukraine to be given an “express path” to EU membership.

However, the neighbours have still clashed on certain issues. As well as the dispute over grain, there also remain tensions over World War Two history.

Earlier this year, a Polish deputy foreign minister said that “it is hard to imagine” Ukraine joining the EU if it does not allow the exhumation of victims of the Volhynia massacres, during which tens of thousands of ethnic Poles were killed by Ukrainian nationalists.

“It’s hard to imagine” Ukraine joining the EU without first allowing the exhumation of ethnic Poles massacred by Ukrainian nationalists in WWII, says a Polish deputy foreign minister.

The issue has often caused tension between two otherwise close allies https://t.co/5zM5uL6pEd

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) June 20, 2023

Main image credit: MRiRW (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 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 PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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