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5 Dec, 2023 13:53

Poland demands EU limits on Ukrainian truckers

Thousands of vehicles have been stopped at the border between the neighbors amid an ongoing dispute between Warsaw and Kiev
Poland demands EU limits on Ukrainian truckers

Poland will insist that the EU restores a permit system for Ukrainian truckers crossing its border, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced on Monday. Polish truckers have been blocking border crossing points since early November, arguing that they are being undercut by their Ukrainian counterparts.

Before February 2022, Ukrainian haulage companies had to obtain permits to enter and operate within the EU. This permit scheme was scrapped shortly after the conflict began, in an attempt to bring much-needed revenue into Ukraine’s transport industry.

However, Morawiecki told reporters on Monday that Warsaw “will very strongly and unequivocally demand the restoration of transport permits for Ukrainian drivers.”

At a meeting of EU transport ministers later that day, Polish Deputy Infrastructure Minister Rafal Weber said the abolition of permits, coupled with an electronic queuing system requiring Polish drivers to wait up to 14 days to return from Ukraine, had allowed Ukrainian companies to seize a dominant share of the market, Poland’s IAR news agency reported.

Poland’s request to reintroduce the permits was backed by Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Croatia, according to the report. However, a spokesperson for the European Commission told IAR that there was “no possibility” of reinstating the permit system.

The request came a month after Polish truckers began a blockade of border crossing points. The blockade resulted in a 40% decrease in the amount of Ukrainian freight passing through the border, the Ukrainian Economy Ministry said on Saturday. The protest was also joined in late November by Polish farmers, who are already unhappy with low grain prices brought about by cheap imports from Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities opened an additional border crossing on Monday to allow empty trucks to return to Poland. However, only a few dozen vehicles have been allowed through the crossing, with Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Sergei Derkach stating that more would be allowed to pass if the Polish blockade was lifted.

Poland has been one of Ukraine’s leading backers in the EU, supplying Kiev with arms, accepting around 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees, and consistently advocating for more sanctions on Moscow. However, the transport dispute is the latest in a series of recent squabbles between Warsaw and Kiev. The most prominent of these arguments occurred in September when Ukraine filed a now-suspended complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Poland and some other EU states banning Ukrainian grain deliveries to protect their own farmers’ incomes.