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Polish truckers agree with government to suspend blockade

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 16, 2024 3:38 PM 3 min read
Polish border road signs are seen as trucks in queue crossing the border in Medyka on Jan. 15, 2024. (Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The Polish truckers protesting at the border with Ukraine have reached an agreement with Warsaw and will end their blockade until March 1, Polish Infrastructure Minister Dariusz Klimczak announced at a press conference on Jan. 16.

"We’ve signed an agreement. The outcome of the agreement will be the discontinuation of protests at road border crossings in three towns: Korczowa, Hrebenne, Dorohusk," Klimczak said.

Discussions are reportedly ongoing, the success of which will determine whether the truckers resume their protest after March 1.

Polish truckers have been blocking three crossings with Ukraine since November 2023 in protest of the EU's liberalization of transit rules for Ukrainian truckers, causing massive lines on the border and negatively impacting Ukraine's economy.

A fourth border crossing, at Medyka-Shehyni, was temporarily blocked by Polish farmers, who suspended their blockade after reaching a deal with the government on Jan. 6.

The protest "concerns many aspects of international politics and domestic politics," and the agreement marks the start of "very intense, constructive talks that are intended to produce a specific effect," Klimczak said. "There is a lot of work ahead of us."

Tomasz Borkowski, a Committee to Protect Transporters and Transport Employers representative, told Reuters that the protest would be suspended from midday on Jan. 17.

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"We agreed to certain conditions, we will give the government time to work as it is a new government," he said.

"If the demands are not met, we will return to the border," protest organizer Rafal Mekler posted on X and shared a photo of the agreement.

Part of the agreement concerned Ukraine's use of an electronic queuing system, which Poland has said leads to longer lines and reduces the competitiveness of transport.  

The deal involves launching a pilot project where empty vehicles leaving Ukraine may avoid the electronic queueing system at one border crossing. Four separate lanes will be opened for empty trucks at another border crossing.  

"The principles of the operation of the electronic queue will be the same for carriers from Poland and Ukraine," the agreement said.

According to the agreement, the issue was discussed and agreed upon by Poland and Ukraine during meetings in Warsaw and Kyiv in December.

During a visit to Kyiv on Dec. 22, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said that the final details of an agreement between Poland and Ukraine are being worked out, which could unblock the border.

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Klimczak agreed to continue dialogue with the European Union and "submit the Polish side's proposals for changes to the EU-Ukraine Agreement on the road transport of goods to the European Commission."

Klimczak also agreed to start talks with the European Commission regarding obtaining financial support for Polish truckers who have suffered financial losses due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, related EU sanctions, and Russian and Belarusian counter-sanctions.

The final point in the agreement stipulates that "in January 2024, the Infrastructure Ministry will prepare a draft law aimed at specifying the obligations of forwarders, senders, and recipients in the field of outsourcing road transport to unauthorized entities and increasing the amount of fines in this respect."

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said earlier in January that he would convince Polish truckers to stop blocking the border. Speaking at a press conference, Tusk said that he understands the "interests of Polish carriers, drivers, and farmers."

Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski also visited the border blockade in late December and promised that the farmers' grievances would be addressed.

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