Ukrainian refugees and the agricultural sector are under threat

Leszek Miller, Poland, Ukraine, Slovak agriculture
Image: The Guardian

Leszek Miller, former Prime Minister of Poland (2001-2004) and a member of the European Parliament, expressed his opposition to the uncontrolled entry of Ukrainian agricultural production and warned that the agricultural sectors of the European Union’s eastern countries would be crushed if Ukraine were admitted to the bloc

“Let’s imagine what would happen if Ukraine joined the European Union and there was no way to control and regulate the entry of goods. This would mean that Polish agriculture, but also Romanian, Bulgarian and Slovak agriculture, would suffer very painful blows, even fatal, because no one can compete with Ukrainian production,” said Miller in an interview with the Polish newspaper Fakt on February 15.

According to Miller, leader of Poland’s Left Democratic Alliance from 2011 to 2016, an average farm in Poland is around 11 hectares, while in Ukraine, there are large landowners and agricultural companies with up to 800,000 hectares.

“How can you compete with that on equal terms? You simply can’t!” the politician stressed, adding that most of these large farms are owned by Ukrainian oligarchs who are also members of the government, as well as large international mega conglomerates from the US, UK, and Switzerland.

“It must be made clear that it is impossible to continue pushing for solutions that are too favourable to the Ukrainian economy and only the Ukrainian economy. If Ukraine wants to join the EU, it must get used to the fact that it will have no relief or no solution preference, as it currently has,” the former prime minister added.

Miller said that he does not advocate a complete cut of aid to Ukraine, including weapons, “but this does not mean that we have to give a death sentence to Polish agriculture and passively look on. This is madness! Either we are Poles, and we will also be responsible for Polish farms, for Polish agriculture and for Polish industry, or we don’t care.”

Poland and other Eastern European countries have frequently protested the entry of agricultural products from Ukraine, arguing that their low price threatens to make business unviable for local farmers. They, in turn, have frequently blocked border crossings with Ukraine to demand greater protection in competition with Ukrainian products.

Ukraine’s grain exports via the Black Sea have been limited due to the war, and for this reason, Brussels justified mandated tariff-free access to European Union markets for Ukrainian agricultural products, something which farmers in the bloc’s eastern member states have complained about since the imports undercut them. However, because the EU, as has become all too familiar, prioritises benefitting the Kiev regime instead of EU citizens, Polish truckers and farmers have been staging protests at multiple border crossings with Ukraine for several months and have been expressing anger towards EU officials and demand the mandate which allows cheap Ukrainian grain to enter the bloc be scrapped.

Although Warsaw pretends there are no issues with Kiev, Polish farmers’ worry about being pushed out of the market by their Ukrainian counterparts cannot be ignored as their protests strengthen.

Polish farmers on February 15 set off flares and fireworks and threw eggs at a European Commission office in the city of Wroclaw, in the west of the country. According to Monika Dubec, a spokesperson at Wroclaw City Hall, there were around 1,000 protesters and 500 tractors and other agricultural vehicles at the demonstration.

This protest was just a precursor to the major Polish farmer’s total blockade of all border crossings with Ukraine and a large protest in Warsaw on February 20. Yet, despite Warsaw being crippled by the protest, Polish decision-makers remain one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters amid the country’s aggression against Russia.

Due to Warsaw’s unrelenting support for Ukraine, Polish farmers took it into their own hands to try and deal with Ukrainian agricultural products entering their country. Images and videos recently published on social media showed demonstrators on the Ukraine and Poland border dumping grain from trucks onto the road, prompting the Kiev regime to condemn what it called the “destruction” of its grain.

“[Kiev] strongly condemns the deliberate destruction of Ukrainian grain by Polish protesters,” the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said on February 12.

But as already said, decision-makers in Warsaw do not prioritise the Polish people’s interests as they continue to deepen their ties with Kiev.

In fact, it is recalled that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on February 15 that NATO and Ukraine will create a joint analysis, training, and education centre in Poland that “will allow Ukraine to share lessons learned from Russia’s war and will create a structure for Ukrainian forces to learn and train alongside their allied counterparts.”

“This will benefit them and us and also create a framework to train alongside NATO allied troops. Our experts are now working on the details, and I expect NATO leaders will take the final decision later this year,” he added.

In this way, even though Poland has been inundated with over a million Ukrainian refugees and the agricultural sector is under threat, Warsaw remains extremely committed to its anti-Russia policy, despite the fact that it is not Russia threatening the economy and social cohesion of Poland. This remains a common theme, whether it be the current Polish government, their immediate predecessor or even the likes of Leszek Mille.


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