Russian war in Ukraine: live updates

Workers harvest a wheat field in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on July 4. Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia will defy the European Union and extend the temporary embargo imposed on Ukrainian grain imports, a move likely to anger the bloc’s leaders.

On Friday, the EU announced that it was lifting restrictive measures imposed on the export of Ukrainian grain to a number of Eastern European countries.

The temporary measure, adopted on May 2, bans the import of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, in order to counter the risk that farmers in these countries are threatened by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain.

The European Commission said in a statement that it was lifting the ban because Ukraine had committed to taking export control measures that would prevent further disruption to neighboring economies.

If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was delighted, his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki did not welcome the EU decision.

“We will extend this ban despite the disagreement of the European Union,” Prime Minister Morawiecki said, according to the official Polish news agency PAP. “We will do it because it is in the interest of Polish farmers,” he added.

A Polish government spokesperson officially announced on Friday the government’s plan to extend the embargo on Ukrainian grain imports.

Hungary also chose to maintain the ban, with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announcing his intention to “take matters into his own hands” on Saturday.

“Ukrainian agricultural products destined for Africa are flooding the markets of Central Europe,” Orban stressed. “Brussels bureaucrats are once again turning a blind eye to the problems… of European farmers, which is why Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are extending the import ban on a national basis.”

Slovakia’s Agriculture Ministry announced its decision to extend the ban in a Facebook post on Friday, citing the need to protect the Slovak “internal market.”

More context: European officials attempted to maintain Ukrainian grain supplies during Russia’s war in Ukraine, fearing widespread famine caused by the blockage of ports and shipping routes to Africa and the Middle East.

The EU has taken steps to lift tariffs on grain from Ukraine and make it easier to distribute to global markets, but the measures have sparked protests from farmers in other European countries, who said the influx of cheap grain was hurting them.

The EU called meetings seeking a compromise before Friday’s announcement and said the decision should satisfy the needs of both sides.

The decision by the three countries to implement their own measures is now expected to anger European officials.

Earlier on Friday, European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis called on countries to “work towards” the new agreement and “refrain from unilateral measures” on Ukrainian grain imports.


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