International

Ukraine ramps up battle with neighbors over food import bans

Ukraine filed a lawsuit Monday against Slovakia, Poland and Hungary at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban on food imports from the country.

In a statement released Monday, Ukraine’s Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said that its European neighbors had violated their international obligations and defied the orders of the European Commission, which decided Friday not to extend a previous ban on Ukraine’s grain imports into Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“It is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods,” Svyrydenko said in a statement. “That is why we are filing lawsuits against them.”

“At the same time, we hope that these countries will lift their restrictions and we will not have to settle the matter in courts for a long time,” Svyrydenko added.

Since May, bans imposed by the European Union meant that the three Central European countries could block the domestic sale of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds. The transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere was permitted. Citing a need to protect the livelihoods of their farmers, the three countries announced that they will continue to enforce these restrictions.

“Our decision is not aimed at Ukraine, it is dictated by the protection of the Polish farmer and the protection of Poland’s interests,” said Radoslaw Fogiel, the head of Poland’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission, according to reporting from Reuters.  

The Russian invasion has created an influx in agricultural products coming to Ukraine, something that has led to a decline in prices for local farmers within the countries. While the EU said that Ukraine has agreed to introduce measures to control the export of grains, countries like Poland, whose current populist right-wing government of the Law and Justice party has strong support in farming regions and will seek to remain in power in the country’s upcoming elections, have vowed to continue their bans in spite of Ukraine’s lawsuit. 

“We maintain our position, we think it is correct, it results from an economic analysis and powers derived from EU and international law,” government spokesman Piotr Müeller said on Polsat News. “A complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us.”

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