The European Commission is ready to set up special trade routes between Poland and Ukraine to ensure food and live animals can be transported both ways as easily as possible, the EU agriculture chief said.
Ukraine has asked Brussels to secure and facilitate agri-food trade flows by establishing so-called green corridors, as most of its own huge food exports from Black Sea ports have been cut off by Russian attacks, dealing a blow to its economy.
“[The] The European Commission is ready to organize such green corridors,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski. He said this would allow Ukraine to export food across the Baltic Sea. A resumption of Ukrainian exports could also allay fears of a looming global food crisis.
The commissioner compared the plan with what has been set in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when the EU waived some goods controls because logistical bottlenecks had caused temporary food shortages in some parts of the bloc. “I discussed this with the Polish Prime Minister [Mateusz Morawiecki] and everything will be done to support Ukraine.”
But Wojciechowski also stated that helping refugees from Ukraine should be a top priority. He conceded that the entire trade would pose a “high risk” due to the recent Russian bombing raids not far from the Polish border.
The Commission’s official food response to the conflict, released Wednesday, made no explicit mention of establishing green corridors. Former Ukraine Minister of Agriculture Roman Leshchenko had called on the EU to set up green corridors Look in the European Parliament a day earlier. He later resigned citing health reasons.
Echoing the stance taken by G7 leaders late last week, Wojciechowski stressed the importance of keeping international food trade afloat and avoiding the push to introduce protectionist measures.
The Hungarian government has introduced export controls on grain leaving its borders, leading Internal Market Commissioners Thierry Breton and Wojciechowski to criticize the move as “absolutely unacceptable”.
Poland’s commissioner also said he believes Ukraine should become a full EU member.
“We should do everything we can to support [the] Ukraine’s aspiration to the European Union, to be part of the European community, is very important for the security of Europe,” he said.
The agriculture chief pointed out that there have been complaints for years that larger Ukrainian farms are unfairly undercutting EU farm producers. But the disruption to Ukraine’s agricultural exports has shown that the EU’s food system would benefit from including Ukraine’s farms, he said.
“It would be the strengthening of European agriculture. That’s my opinion, but of course there are many political aspects to this decision.”
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