Why Ukraine still far from reaching understanding with Poland on border unlocking

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has unveiled a Plan of Understanding to resolve issues with Poland (at least in the agricultural sector) and finally reopening the border.

No breakthrough has occurred though. The Polish government de facto has rejected the Ukrainian proposals.

Read more in the column by Yulii Zoria, a Ukrainian-Polish trade expert, and Yurii Panchenko, European Pravda's editor – Ukrainian monologue: Why government's border unlocking plan did not interest Poland.

Step 1. Ukraine agrees to additional restrictions on poultry, eggs, and sugar. It also confirms readiness for the verification mechanism for grain, corn, sunflower, and rapeseed.

The authors note that complaints from Polish farmers did not complain about Ukrainian chicken or eggs. It is not surprising: thanks to cheap Ukrainian grain in previous years, these sectors have showed significant growth, intensifying competition.

The farmers, currently blocking the border, are not interested in it. And it turns out that with such proposals, Ukraine simply "shoots itself in the foot," experts say.

"As for the proposals for extending the verification mechanism, the problem is that among Polish farmers, there is great scepticism about its effectiveness," write Zoria and Panchenko.

Step 2. Appeal to the European Commission to conduct urgent screening of clusters, including agricultural policy and transport... This is necessary to prevent manipulation of the quality of Ukrainian agricultural products.

The authors don't understand how Polish farmers could benefit from it.

They note that one of the protesters' claims is about the quality of Ukrainian products. Ukraine needs to prove the opposite, and no screening by the European Commission will help here.

Zoria and Panchenko point out, Ukrainian farmers are unlikely to switch to EU standards any time soon, even without screening.

Step 3. We propose that the Polish government jointly appeal to the European Commission to ban Russian agricultural exports to the EU.

"And although this point is not directly related to the demands of farmers or the quality and pricing of Ukrainian products, it is undoubtedly the right initiative," the columnists believe.

Step 4. We suggest to create a Trilateral Headquarters: Ukraine, Poland, the European Commission, with the participation of ministers, agricultural associations. We must work around the clock to quickly resolve all misunderstandings.

This point also does not seem realistic to the columnists.

They find it difficult to imagine a headquarter with agricultural ministries, the European Commission, and agricultural associations working around the clock to resolve "all misunderstandings."

Moreover, the border blockade has long gone beyond an agrarian dispute between the two countries.

Step 5. The Ukrainian government demands to "resolve all misunderstandings" by 28 March, otherwise the Ukrainian government threatens to block border crossing points from its side as well.

Under the current conditions, this step is unlikely to scare Poland much. And at the same time, it is unlikely to bring the countries closer to an agreement on such an important matter for Ukraine.

So, to help the Polish Prime Minister unlock the border, Ukraine needs to implement powerful communication with Polish society about the fact that the Ukrainian agro-sector is in no way responsible for the poor financial condition of Polish farmers, and the previous government's inaction is to blame for this.

Ukraine can prove it by simple, understandable arithmetic calculations. Cooperation with Ukraine is strategically beneficial for Poland and the EU.

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