What Should Ukraine Do to Unlock Border with Poland

Thursday, 7 December 2023

The blockade of the border with Ukraine by some Polish hauliers has been ongoing for a month now, and recently, Slovak drivers have joined them.

Representatives of the Ukrainian government have tried to negotiate with the blockaders from the very first days, but failed.

The reason is the excessively high demands of the Polish side, which insists on the return of licensing for Ukrainian hauliers.

The EU Transport Ministers Council, however, has declared that there is no reason to cancel the current regime.

Considering this, Viktor Dovhan, an adviser to the EU Delegation, attempted to model how the border with Poland could be unblocked. Read more in his column Unlock the Border: Possible Compromises Between Ukraine and Poland.

Surprisingly, as the author notes, the reasons for this crisis are primarily political rather than economic. That's why the solution will come from politicians.

The most crucial, emphasises by Viktor Dovhan, is the clear EU stance that the demand for the return of permits should not be satisfied.

"Instead, the condition to create a joint committee and monitor the implementation of the Agreement on visa-free transport looks entirely acceptable. This is a normal practice for the EU. Moreover, in my opinion, monitoring will not cause significant harm to the transport market of Ukraine's neighbouring countries from such liberalisation," the expert notes.

What about the other demands of Polish hauliers?

The EU Delegation adviser believes that the demands of the Polish side regarding a separate queue for Polish trucks and complicating the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) system should not be discussed at all. These are discriminatory norms that are impossible to fulfil. They can be easily legally annulled.

Instead, Kyiv can agree without significant issues to two demands from Polish protesters, according to Dovhan.

The first is to introduce a separate lane for empty trucks at each crossing point.

The second is to restore access for Ukrainian drivers from Polish transport companies to the system Shliakh system, which allows Ukrainians of conscription age to travel freely from Ukraine.

The prioritisation of this demand is confirmed by a letter from the Ministry of Infrastructure of Poland, sent to Ukraine, where no other demands of the protesters were mentioned.

The author notes that the effectiveness of these actions is still an open question. It is highly likely that Poland is satisfied only with these measures because the new Polish government is not interested in a conflict with the EU, and the position of the European Commission on the return of licenses has been unequivocal.

Finally, queues at the border are a result of increasing trade between Ukraine and the EU. However, these queues can disappear with the effective work of relevant services at the border and an increase in capacity.

Kyiv and Warsaw should plan for 2024 the opening of additional border crossing points and the construction of multimodal terminals to transfer cargo from trucks to railways.

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