EU reaches agreement with five member states on Ukraine import curbs

1 May 2023 | Sharon Levrez

The European Commission has reached a break-through agreement with five member states as well as with Ukraine to address the concerns of farmers in EU countries bordering Ukraine on imports from the war-torn country, as well as Ukraine’s needs to keep up its export pace, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said late Friday.

“We reached an agreement in principle with five neighboring Member States – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – as well as with Ukraine itself,” Dombrovskis told a press conference following the informal Ecofin council meeting.

“The European Commission will propose emergency safeguard measures for the four most sensitive products - wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed. We will launch so-called ‘safeguard investigations' on several other products as well,” he said.

The announcement follows statements from Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski last week that European Union could be close to implementing a temporary, limited ban on agricultural imports from Ukraine to the five member states, while still allowing transit through these countries.

Wojciechowski added sunflower oil to the list of products included in the proposed ban, along with the other four.

The five member states had been pushing to include other products in addition, such as sugar, honey, milk products, and poultry meat to the list of banned imports, but the Commissioner said he did not consider this to be necessary as the volume of imports was minor compared to the others.

At the same time, Dombrovskis reiterated that the Commission would propose a €100 million support package for affected farmers in these five member states, in return for the states withdrawing unilateral measures introduced to curb Ukrainian imports.

The member states had previously said this figure was insufficient.

The proposal will still be subject to approval by the other EU member states before it can be implemented.

Separately, the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee agreed Thursday to extend the suspension of EU import duties on Ukrainian exports for another year to support the country’s economy during the war with Russia.

The suspension applies to fruits and vegetables subject to the entry price system, as well as agricultural products and processed agricultural products subject to tariff-rate quotas and was due to expire on June 5.

The extension will now be put to all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) during the upcoming plenary session on May 8-11.

This extension will also be subject to approval by the European Council.