Why border blockade doesn't mean Poland's rejection of pro-Ukrainian course

Thursday, 22 February 2024

The Polish-Ukrainian border is blocked again. Polish farmers have taken to protest this time. They are blocking not only border crossings but also main roads and entrances to cities.

Polish agrarians, like farmers in many EU countries, are protesting against deteriorating conditions in agriculture and declining profitability of agricultural production.

Read more about the situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border in the article by Edwin Bendyk, President of the Stefan Batory Foundation – The problem that shouldn't ruin relations: Polish perspective on border blocking with Ukraine.

Farmers primarily blame the European Commission and the European Green Deal for their problems.

The new rules under the Green Deal, although adopted with noble intentions, also mean new costs for climate protection, undermining the competitiveness of European agribusiness on the global market.

The fear of losing competitiveness compels Polish farmers to add another reason to their protests – what they see as unfair competition from Ukrainian farmers and producers.

That's why they demand restrictions on the import of agricultural products from Ukraine. They not only block border crossings to show their anger, but also spill grain from Ukrainian trucks and trains.

Influencing farmers is not easy. Firstly, protests unite Poles despite political differences. Secondly, Poland is gearing up for local elections on 7 April. On top of that, elections to the European Parliament will take place in two months.

Maximally weakening the right-wing, including the Law and Justice Party (PiS), is a task of the utmost importance.

The growing support for extreme and populist right-wing movements in most European countries is the greatest threat today. In most cases, right-wing populist parties and their politicians represent either openly pro-Russian or, at best, "realistic" positions, arguing for the need to quickly end the war through negotiations.

The results of the European Parliament elections will determine whether a European Commission will be formed that is ready to continue the current policy of supporting and assisting Ukraine.

Does the mass support of protesters signify an anti-Ukrainian turn in Polish society? The answer is as resolute as the question: no!

Various studies show that Poland remains among the leaders in pro-Ukrainian support, even among European societies most convinced of Ukraine's victory.

Understanding this socio-political context is important. It should be remembered during Ukrainian discussions about the situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian experts are surely right that the export of grain and agricultural products from Ukraine to Poland is not a problem.

One of the best experts in the Polish agricultural market, Mirosław Marcińak, shows that the price drop is a result of the situation on the global markets, and prices continued to fall even after banning imports from Ukraine.

He notes that the Polish government should develop infrastructure to facilitate storage of surpluses and exports. The Polish government, however, has neglected such actions over the past two years.

Other experts point out that Poland not only imports agricultural products from Ukraine but is also the main exporter of food to Ukraine.

Such facts should form the basis for a rational Polish-Ukrainian discussion.

So, Ukrainian politicians and experts should separate their genuine emotions from analysis and strategic calculation in their reactions.

While border blockades and trade disruptions are more than burdensome for Ukrainian society and the state and should be resolved as quickly as possible, they do not have strategic significance. The strategic importance lies in preserving as much military support for Ukraine and assistance during post-war reconstruction and Euro-integration.

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