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Media: Bulgaria wants to end Ukrainian grain import ban

by Martin Fornusek September 13, 2023 11:33 AM 2 min read
A pile of maize grains is seen on the pier at the Izmail Sea Port, Odesa Oblast, on July 22, 2023. (Photo credit: STRINGER / AFP via Getty Images)
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Bulgaria no longer supports prolonging the European Union's ban on Ukrainian grain imports as three major parties in the country's parliament submitted a draft decision against the prolongation, Euroactiv reported on Sept. 12.

The motion proposed by the governing GERB-SDS and PP-DB parties, as well as the opposition party DPS, has been supported by the parliamentary economic committee and must now go through the plenary hall.

The previous caretaker government appointed by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev joined Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland in the push for the EU-instituted ban on domestic sales of certain Ukrainian grain products in these five countries. The measure is currently set to expire on Sept. 15.

The five states were reacting to the pressure from their farmers, who feared that cheaper Ukrainian imports would threaten domestic production. The influx of grain from Ukraine also created logistical bottlenecks.

However, Euroactiv suggested that the previous cabinet ignored the interests of consumers and of Bulgarian sunflower oil producers.

As the country traditionally imports 30% of its sunflower seeds from Ukraine, the embargo puts serious constraints on the domestic production of sunflower oil.

Bulgaria's new government under Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov also took a more decisively pro-Ukrainian stance in its policies, expediting military aid despite opposition by President Radev.

"Recognizing Bulgaria's solidarity with Ukraine and in order to ensure global food security... Bulgaria does not support the continuation after September 15 of the ban on imports into Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia of wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds from Ukraine," read the draft decision of the three parties.

Unlike Sofia, Warsaw has appealed to the European Commission for the prolongation of the ban and said that Poland will impose restrictions at the national level if the measure is not extended.

Hungary's Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy said on Sept. 13 that Budapest will extend the ban unilaterally if necessary, alleging that Romania, Slovakia, and even Bulgaria took the same position.

Ukraine, one of the world's leading grain producers, is seeking alternative routes for its exports after Russia's unilateral withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17.

Kyiv asked the EU not to prolong the ban, saying it would be "unacceptable" to continue the restriction past Sept. 15.

This measure did not restrict the transit of Ukrainian produce through the territories of the said states. Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria even introduced or discussed measures to expand their transit capacity of Ukrainian grain.

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