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Spain sees bans by EU countries on Ukrainian grain imports as illegal

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 18, 2023 5:39 PM 1 min read
A pile of maize grains is seen on the pier at the Izmail Sea Port, Odesa Oblast, on July 22, 2023. (Photo by Stringer/ AFP via Getty Images)
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Spain's Agriculture Minister Luis Planas Puchades said on Sept. 18 that unilateral restrictions by EU countries on importing Ukrainian grain may be illegal, Reuters reported.

However, the minister added that it "it was up to the European Commission to judge" whether any EU members have broken any laws.

In May, the Commission imposed a ban on sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed in five EU countries: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The nations requested the measure due to fears from local farmers that cheap Ukrainian imports would drive down agriculture prices.

While the Commission decided not to extend the ban after Sept. 15, citing data indicating that Ukrainian imports would no longer negatively impact local markets, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary decided to continue to restrict imports of Ukrainian agricultural products.

The ban does not apply to transiting the grain through the territories of the said countries, however.

Although Bulgaria was not among the countries to prolong the ban, Sofia's decision against the extension revived fears among Bulgarian farmers. Local agricultural workers have blocked main roads across the country in a nationwide protest against Ukrainian imports.

Like his Spanish counterpart, French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau criticized the decision by the three Central European countries: "For solidarity, there needs to be unity... We must keep hold of the two elements, otherwise, the European project is at risk. The single market is a fundamental element."

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.

One such alternative is the so-called Solidarity Lanes instituted by the EU in May 2022, facilitating the transit of Ukrainian produce via European countries. Some EU members like Romania, Poland, Croatia, or Bulgaria introduced or discussed measures to expand their transit capacity of Ukrainian grain.

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