What next in the Ukraine grain dispute?

Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria are sticking to their import bans for Ukrainian grain, allowing only conditional onward transit. Their markets have been flooded with grain from Ukraine because the intended land transit routes for its grain exports have become exceedingly expensive and complicated and traffic on the shipping routes has been reduced despite the grain deal. The EU Commission now plans to introduce temporary restrictions to bring the blockade to an end.

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Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Use the available legal mechanisms

Ukraine should seek arbitration to settle its differences with the EU, maintains Yuri Panchenko, editor at Ukrainska Pravda:

“After all, there is always a mechanism in place to protect our national interests in the form of arbitration, as stipulated in the Association Agreement. Even if it takes more than a year to resolve the dispute in this arbitration process, Ukraine has very good chances of winning - and Brussels knows it. For its part, Ukraine is very keen to resolve this matter as quickly as possible, otherwise it could permanently damage our relations with the EU and create additional problems at the final stage before EU accession.”

Ukrainian Radio (UA) /

The biggest obstacle is out of the way

Ukrainske radio is optimistic:

“The main thing is that transit is allowed and that it can take place in a normal and civilised way - without fuel checks, for example. We will find a buyer in Europe. It's clear that logistical costs will be very high - global market prices are not very favourable at the moment, and domestic grain prices will fall - but nothing can deter our farmers.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

EU farmers will still do good business

The taz sees the problem as solved:

“In the end, Ukrainian grain will likely be better distributed in the European Union. And onward transport to Africa, for example, will become more attractive. German farmers will suffer by being more exposed to cheap Ukrainian competition. However, agricultural product prices are very high currently, and crop farmers in particular have earned more recently than they have in a long time. Even if grain does become a little cheaper, farmers will still do good business - and inflation will be curbed as a side-effect.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Ukraine doesn't reap the profits

It's mainly large foreign companies that profit from the sale of Ukrainian grain, János Zila of the pro-government think tank Alapjogokért Központ points out in Magyar Nemzet:

“An analysis by the Oakland Institute [an independent think tank in California] lists the ten largest companies that own agricultural land in Ukraine: of these, two are US-based and one is Saudi. ... US, British, German, French, Dutch and Czech shareholders appeared after 2014. Small and medium-sized Ukrainian farming companies are restricted to ever smaller pieces of land and have very limited access to subsidies. ... This means that it isn't the Ukrainian population but large Western investors and corrupt oligarchs who benefit from most of the sales to Europe.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

Hardly an attractive prospect

EU membership for Ukraine would pose a major challenge for the EU, Iltalehti notes:

“In the EU, Ukrainian grain shipments and the 'Brussels egg crisis' have shown member states what it would mean for the EU to absorb Europe's breadbasket - because cheap Ukrainian grain and farm products have begun to flood the EU's internal market. Brussels is drowning in eggs, and Polish and other farmers in the eastern EU are furious about the pressure Ukrainian grain is putting on prices in the EU. ... If Ukraine were to become a member of the EU, it would be a cold shower for all EU states with large agricultural sectors.”

Sme (SK) /

False accusations doing the rounds

Sme is angered by the spread of fake news about pesticides in Ukrainian grain:

“The Czech Republic has not joined the import ban. The word there is that this is all 'humbug'. Instead of throwing the authors and spreaders of the pesticide scam in jail, Slovakia is now in its third day of debating this nonsense. And this in a situation where half the world is consuming grain from Ukraine without any health incidents to speak of.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Price problem not caused by Ukrainian imports

Dnevnik does not believe that Bulgaria's import ban will affect the price of grain:

“The Bulgarian farmers' problem has nothing to do with imports from Ukraine, because their volume is minimal. In the case of wheat, for example, imports amount to 0.3 percent of Bulgarian production. ... Although it may be a successful PR campaign, the import ban will not solve the price problem. Grain prices were artificially inflated on the world and Bulgarian markets last year because many producers held back part of their output in anticipation of higher prices. This year, however, prices have returned to pre-war levels.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Accession would be painful for the EU states

Ukraine's European integration is not a foregone conclusion, Rzeczpospolita fears:

“Poland must prepare for the costs associated with its eastern neighbour's accession to the EU. ... This decision requires unanimity among the EU states, many of which - especially in Western Europe - have doubts. Poland's recent dispute with Ukraine has given them an additional argument: even Kyiv's biggest advocate has problems with enlargement. After all, our eastern neighbour is not only a war-ravaged country but also a huge state whose integration will be costly and may have painful social consequences for current EU members.”

Delo (SI) /

Exemption from import duties remains an issue

The dispute is jeopardising support for Ukraine in the EU, Delo fears:

“Solidarity with Ukraine has been put to the test in recent weeks, with eastern member states annoyed over being flooded with cheap grain. The EU had waived trade restrictions and tariffs to support Ukraine in the war, and it is expected that this arrangement will be extended in June. Member states taking unilateral measures that affect the entire single market and arguably breach EU law is unacceptable to Brussels. Ukraine, which was officially granted candidate status in June 2022, will not join the EU for a while yet, but the grain problems are an indication of what could happen during and after its accession.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Dangerous cracks in transborder alliance

Hospodářské noviny warns:

“In Central Europe, the dispute over Ukrainian grain reveals the anti-Ukrainian currents present in society. In Poland and Slovakia these movements are linked to the nationalists, and it's no coincidence that they are loudest there - both countries have elections in autumn. The weakening of Ukrainian support in Central Europe is all the more important for Russia's propaganda because up to now it is been states like Poland and the Czech Republic that have been pressuring their partners from the western part of the EU to do more for Ukraine. If Russia succeeds in weakening support for Ukraine in Central Europe, it will weaken throughout the West.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Brussels doesn't understand members in Eastern Europe

The blockade is a justified protection mechanism for which the EU should show more understanding, The Spectator counters:

“The EU ostensibly backs Ukraine and its interests. Nevertheless, it also needs to stand behind its member states; they have every right to expect a thoughtful, nuanced and swift-footed reaction, or even some sympathetic words from Ursula von der Leyen. Unfortunately they have not got this. ... For one thing, [this lack of sympathy] shows up Brussels's long-standing failure to understand eastern Europe. It has not grasped that, unlike in much of the West, large-scale relatively efficient agriculture is an important industry in the region that needs encouraging.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Bratislava in a bind

The Slovakian government faces a dilemma in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, observes Új Szó:

“Agriculture is one of the most sensitive political issues in any country, with the potential to influence the outcome of parliamentary elections. This is particularly evident in Slovakia, as the early parliamentary elections slated for September draw ever closer. ... Ukrainian grain entering the Slovakian market has indeed also had a negative impact on Slovak farmers. But the unilateral import ban not only violates EU rules, it will also damage bilateral relations between Slovakia and Ukraine.”

Strana (UA) /

EU states see Ukraine as a competitor

Relations with the EU will not be easy for Ukraine after the war, Strana fears:

“The European market will effectively be closed to Ukrainian agricultural products. ... And as the examples of Romania and Poland show, transit will be made as difficult as possible by the border countries. If the grain corridor in the Black Sea ports is not extended in May, the situation will become critical for Ukrainian food exports. ... All in all this is certainly not a positive signal for Ukraine, which aspires to join the EU. Judging by the episode involving agricultural exports, Europe sees Ukraine as a competitor. And if such drastic protectionist measures are taken during the war, one can only guess what conditions will be imposed on Ukraine once it ends.”