Ukraine denies Polish PM’s claim of talks over temporary border closure

Ukraine has denied Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s claim that the two countries are negotiating a temporary closure of their shared border and suspension of trade in response to ongoing protests by Polish farmers.

“We are talking with the Ukrainian side about temporarily closing the border and closing the exchange of trade,” said Tusk on Wednesday. “Such a solution would be temporary and mutually painful.”

“Poland has a trade surplus with Ukraine – we sell much more to Ukraine than we receive from Ukraine – but different groups have different interests,” he added.

Premier Tusk: rozmawiamy ze stroną ukraińską o całkowitym zamknięciu granicy z Ukrainą, ale byłoby to rozwiązanie tymczasowe.

— PAP (@PAPinformacje) February 28, 2024

Early this month, Polish farmers launched a 30-day strike that has seen them block roads around the country as well as border crossings with Ukraine. They say that the increase in agricultural imports from Ukraine during the war with Russia is pushing down prices on the market.

On Wednesday, a day after the farmers’ largest protest so far – when around 10,000 marched through Warsaw – Tusk announced that he had convened a summit with farmers’ leaders that will take place today. He said that the idea of a temporary border closure would be discussed there.

“I am ready to make tough decisions when it comes to the border with Ukraine, [but] always in consultation with Kyiv, so that there are no unnecessary tensions between Warsaw and Kyiv,” he declared.

However, shortly after Tusk’s remarks, Oleksandr Kubrakov, deputy prime minister of Ukraine, denied that any talks had taken place over such a plan.

Ukraine is not going to close its borders with Poland. No one from the Ukrainian side is negotiating about this. Our people are fighting for their existence in a war with the Russian aggressor. For us, a stable border is a matter of survival. We have great respect for friendly…

— Oleksandr Kubrakov (@OlKubrakov) February 28, 2024

“Ukraine is not going to close its borders with Poland. No one from the Ukrainian side is negotiating about this,” wrote Kubrakov on X. “Our people are fighting for their existence in a war with the Russian aggressor. For us, a stable border is a matter of survival.”

During his comments yesterday, Tusk also said that proposals so far by Brussels and Kyiv to limit the amount of Ukrainian agricultural imports are “unacceptably” weak for Poland.

“The limits on agricultural products from Ukraine [should be] much more restrictive, so that [the imports] do not pose a threat to Polish producers,” he said.

❗ Polska proponuje w Brukseli bardziej restrykcyjne limity na produkty rolne z Ukrainy, aby nie zagrażały polskim producentom – Premier @DonaldTusk.

— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) February 28, 2024

However, while Tusk’s government is still placing its hopes on reaching an agreement at the EU level, the main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), yesterday repeated its calls for Poland to introduce a unilateral embargo on Ukrainian products, despite this being in violation of EU trade rules.

“We demand action, not talks or discussions,” said Robert Telus, who served as agriculture minister in the PiS government that was in power until last year. Telus noted that when he was the minister, the government introduced unilateral bans on Ukrainian grain despite “threats” from the EU.

“We did not ask for the opinion of the Brussels elites,” added Mateusz Morawiecki, who was the head of that PiS government. “We decided to unilaterally introduce an embargo in order to serve [the interests of] Polish farmers.”

💬 Wiceprezes PiS @MorawieckiM: Embargo to dziś konieczność. Należy opracować system kaucyjny, system, który będzie w pełni szczelny dla ewentualnych kwot importowych dla produktów z Ukrainy i należy wrócić do systemu, który działał. To konstruktywne rozwiązanie tego problemu, z…

— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) February 28, 2024

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Main image credit: Grzegorz Krzyżewski/BRPO (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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