The European Union is in turmoil as former eastern bloc countries appear at loggerheads with other member states, namely Germany, as they defy the Commission and its lifting of the ban on Ukrainian grain.
Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have imposed unilateral bans on Ukrainian grain, in defiance of EU policy. In response, they’ve been accused of picking and choosing which EU policies to adhere to and putting their own objectives ahead of that of President Zelensky’s embattled state.
In an extraordinary step that may expose cracks in the West’s united opposition to Russia’s war, Ukraine has launched legal action.
Earlier this year, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia as well as Bulgaria and Romania were given special dispensation by the Commission to block the flow of Ukrainian grain, as it risked distorting their domestic markets with a flood of cheap produce.
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The EU has now decided not to renew the grain ban past the September 15 expiry date, sparking outrage in Warsaw, Budapest and Bratislava and creating a wedge between member states.
In a bombshell statement, Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister, said: “It is fundamentally important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban the import of Ukrainian goods. 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 court for a long time. We need solidarity with them and the protection of farmers’ interests.”
Exposing the factionalism at the heart of the EU, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke defiantly to his people following the Commission’s move to end the grain ban. He said: “We will extend this ban despite their disagreement, despite the European Commission’s disagreement.
“We will do it because it is in the interest of the Polish farmers.”
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Warsaw has said that the ban will be “indefinite”, meanwhile Hungary has gone a step further and banned the import of a slew of Ukrainian products, including meat, honey and wine, as well as grain.
Hungarian farm minister István Nagy took to Facebook on Saturday, saying: “If cheap Ukrainian imports flood the markets of neighbouring EU member states . . . we can’t watch this idly”.
The move has caused uproar in the capital’s of western European member states, including Berlin, Paris and Madrid.
German Food and Agriculture minister Cem Özdemir accused Poland, Hungary and Slovakia of showing “part-time solidarity” with Ukraine and urged the rebel band of member states to “shy away” from behaving in a way that would please Vladimir Putin.
Luis Planas, the Spanish agriculture minister, branded the unilateral bans as a “mistake” that risked contributing to food insecurity.
Planas said on Monday: “These measures are incompatible with EU law.
“We cannot lose the focus. The focus is support for Ukraine to contain the illegal and unjustified aggression of Russia.”
French counterpart, Marc Fesneau, echoed this position, saying: “We regret a number of unilateral measures taken by border countries, which are not the first time.
“It seems to me that you can’t have solidarity without unity. And to have unity, you also need to express solidarity.”
Express.co.uk has approached Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for comment.
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