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17 Nov, 2023 08:22

Ukrainian truckers blocked in another EU state

Slovak drivers showed support for their Polish counterparts with an hour-long blockade at the border
Ukrainian truckers blocked in another EU state

Truck drivers in Slovakia briefly blocked a border crossing with Ukraine on Thursday, demanding protection from what they perceive as unfair competition from Ukrainian haulers and threatening a permanent blockade, similar to the one in place in Poland.

The protest at the Vysne Nemecke-Uzhgorod checkpoint was organized by the Union of Auto Transporters (UNAS) and was touted as an expression of solidarity with Polish truckers. Both blame the EU leadership for its decision to suspend a system of permits for Ukrainian drivers, one of many measures to support Kiev economically as it fights against Russia.

The protesters say Ukrainian drivers do not have to observe the rules that transport firms in the EU are subject to, so can outcompete Poles and Slovaks. Previously, only a limited number of permits were issued each year, alleviating the pressure.

“Our goal is to support our Polish colleagues, as well as all carriers in the EU. We ask the European Commission to immediately introduce transportation permits for Ukrainian vehicles,” UNAS chairman Stanislav Skala told the media.

He warned that if the situation does not change within seven days, a Polish-style blockade will be the group’s next step.

The action in Poland started in early November and affected Slovakia, as drivers rerouted their trips. A line of trucks waiting for a check as long as 25 km was reported on the Slovakian side of the border this week. Border officials can handle roughly 170 vehicles a day, but an estimated 800 mostly Ukrainian trucks were trying to cross over.

Kiev’s ambassador to Warsaw, Vassily Zvarych, has denounced Polish protesters, calling their blockade a “strike in the back” of Ukraine.

Both EU nations previously imposed national bans on Ukrainian grain, after an EU-mandated restriction expired in September, in a bid to protect farmers from competition. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky decried the measures as “un-European”.