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EU-Ukraine Grain Row May Spin Out of Control as Zelensky Threatens WTO Complaint - Analyst

© Sputnik / Valery Morev / Go to the mediabankGrain harvest in the fields
Grain harvest in the fields - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.09.2023
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The row between Ukraine and its neighboring member countries of the European Union over their banning of Ukrainian grain imports is escalating quickly and may lead to a serious rift, as Kiev filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Paris-based geopolitical analyst Nikola Mirkovic told Sputnik.
Last week, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia extended their bans on cheap Ukrainian grain imports unilaterally after the European Commission refused to extend it at the bloc level. Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka said on Sunday that Kiev viewed their decision as unlawful and would dispute it with the WTO. He also said Ukraine might impose retaliatory sanctions to protect its economy.

"Tension is really flaring up between Ukraine and its immediate EU neighbors: Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, but also Romania," Mirkovic stressed, adding that "this nasty quarrel between some EU members and Ukraine could rapidly escalate out of control."

The European Commission's decision is weakening the bloc's entire agricultural sector, which has already been suffering, the expert argued.

"Farmers’ unions in other European countries are protesting against the flood of cheap Ukrainian cereals submerging the markets in the EU, now that the European Commission is forcing the sudden import of extra-European grain to help Ukraine, which can only export a trickle of grain via the Black Sea," he said.

A view shows wheat ears to be harvested in the fields of Krasnodarskoe company in Krasnodar region, Russia. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.09.2023
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This is only one of the ways in which the European Union is "bleeding itself dry" to help Ukraine, in addition to supplying weapons and ammunition, Mirkovic said. He also said that European decision-makers were "silently exasperated" by Kiev’s attitude, after all the support it has received from Brussels, "but shut up for now."
This is because the European Union "does not have a say in real decisions about the conflict," while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "only reports to Washington and the Biden Administration," and has grown used to getting what he wants from the EU leaders, the expert argued.

"This crisis between Ukraine and the EU about the cereals exportation is due to the unacceptable attitude of Zelensky, who immediately threatens Poland, that have helped Ukraine most until now, as well as Hungary and Slovakia, with a WTO complaint if important bans are not lifted immediately," he emphasized.

A combine harvester gathers grain from a field in Ukraine (file). - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.09.2023
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The upcoming parliamentary elections in Poland are another important factor in this situation, since they leave Warsaw with no room for maneuver, and force it to take a tough stance, the expert believes.

"For the conservative government of [Prime Minister] Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw, the farmers’ vote is essential to remain in power in the coming elections, so Poland will certainly not accept Ukraine's ultimatum and even threatens now to block Ukraine’s admission to the Union," Mirkovic explained.

It is also "not very wise" on Kiev's part to alienate Budapest at a time when the bilateral relationship is already "very bad," as "tensions are rising in Poland between the population and the millions of Ukrainian refugees that compete with the Poles for jobs," the expert said.
"The Polish generosity is coming to an end," he added.
People queue to cross the border on their way back to Ukraine (back) as refugees from Ukraine are seen arriving in Poland (front) at the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland on April 8, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.09.2023
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