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The European Union has ignored Poland’s pleas to end a partial ban on Ukrainian grain imports and asked Kyiv to voluntarily stem the influx of agricultural products into the neighboring country.

Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia asked that restrictions on four cereals, including wheat and corn, which expired on Friday, be extended until the end of the year to protect farmers from cheap competition.

But weeks before elections in Warsaw and Bratislava, Brussels concluded that “market distortions” in member states bordering Ukraine had “disappeared” since the temporary ban was introduced in May.

Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels’ decision, said they would unilaterally restrict imports to protect their farmers. “For us, the most important thing is the interests of Polish farmers, not the interests of Ukrainian oligarchs,” Polish Deputy Agriculture Minister Janusz Kowalski told the Financial Times late on Friday.

A senior EU official has called on member states to “work in a spirit of compromise” in the face of potential challenges to the European Commission’s trade policy authority. EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said, “Of course it is best for member states not to take unilateral measures.”

Most member states also oppose an extension, according to several diplomats. The committee said Kyiv would take “legal measures” within 30 days to replace a formal ban “to avoid a food surge”.

The expiration of the ban will appease Ukraine, which has threatened legal action against Brussels. Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told the Financial Times that Kyiv would challenge the EU’s move at the World Trade Organization if the EU extended the measure.

“It is important to move away from political discussions and towards cold legal assessments,” he said, adding that the bans were “inappropriate”.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) needs the support of rural voters to win a third term. Polish government officials have also recently raised the issue of Ukraine’s application to join the EU. Agriculture Minister Robert Thales said on Thursday that Ukraine’s agriculture poses a “threat” to EU farmers and the country should not be allowed to join the EU “unconditionally”.

Earlier this year, Polish farmers staged massive protests against the government’s failure to protect them from cheap Ukrainian imports, and opposition parties immediately seized on the opportunity. Agricultural association Agrounia formed a political party to condemn imports of Ukrainian grains and recently joined an opposition coalition led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Poland’s Kowalski said Warsaw would impose its own ban from midnight on Friday, making good on its threat to block Ukrainian imports regardless of what Brussels decided. Hungary also said it would impose restrictions unilaterally.

Shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, the EU lifted quotas and tariffs on Ukrainian food. The EU move is aimed at boosting Kiev’s war-torn economy.

In recent months, more Ukrainian grain has begun arriving overland via neighboring EU countries after Moscow pulled out of a plan to allow exports through the Black Sea.

Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Agreement in July triggered a brief rise in global grain prices, but a bumper Russian wheat harvest has since suppressed costs, sending Chicago wheat futures to their lowest level in nearly three years.

Miroslaw Marciniak, a market analyst at Warsaw-based InfoGrain, said whether the ban is extended will have no impact on the Polish market. “It’s not Ukrainian grains that are causing prices to be so low, it’s the global market.”

Bulgaria was initially among the protesting countries but voted on Thursday to lift the ban in a bid to lower domestic food prices. The Sofia government said it would compensate farmers.

President of Ukraine: “Bulgaria sets an example of true unity” Vladimir Zelensky wrote on social media platform X.

Additional reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest, Roman Olearchyk in Kiev, Barbara Erling in Warsaw and Henry Foy in Santiago de Compostela


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