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Bulgaria's Parliament votes to end Ukrainian grain import ban

by Martin Fornusek September 14, 2023 2:16 PM 2 min read
This picture taken on April 20, 2023 shows a full grainhouse near the town of Saedinenie, Central Bulgaria. (Photo credit: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Bulgaria's National Assembly, the country's parliament, voted on Sept. 14 against extending the import ban on certain Ukrainian agricultural products beyond Sept. 15, the Sofia Globe reported.

The vote, preceded by a two-hour debate, passed by a comfortable majority with 124 lawmakers voting in support, 69 against, and five abstaining, the outlet said.

The Assembly still requires the Bulgarian government to express its position. According to the Sofia Globe, the government has already voiced support for the move, arguing that it will reduce prices of foodstuffs and curb inflation.

Addressing any lingering concerns, Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev reportedly said during the debate in the parliament that measures to control all Ukrainian goods, especially cereals, had been stepped up, with strict checks for the presence of radioactivity, heavy metals, herbicides, and pesticides.

The motion not to prolong the ban was proposed earlier this week by the governing GERB-SDS and PP-DB parties, as well as the opposition party DPS.

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, the news outlet 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.

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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