Polish farmers launch nationwide strike, block Ukrainian border

Polish farmers protest against the EU's green policy and imports of Ukrainian agricultural products near Warsaw, March 20, 2024
Polish farmers protest against the EU's green policy and imports of Ukrainian agricultural products near Warsaw, March 20, 2024

Polish farmers launched a nationwide strike on March 20, completely blocking two border crossings with Ukraine. Michał Potocki, a journalist for the Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, explained to Radio NV the peculiarities and main goal of the protests, which this time are concentrated on major highways instead of Warsaw.

“Last time there were clashes with the police. The picture on TV was not good, so the farmers decided not to provoke such scenes again,” he said.

“Today they will only block roads, especially those leading to Warsaw.”

The main goal of these protests, which have already spread to Romania, Germany, Belgium, France and Lithuania, is “not so much against Ukrainian grain, but against the green policies of the EU, against plans that, in the view of the farmers, violate their interests and threaten them with large sums of money to adapt to the new rules of the green agricultural policy.”

“The main demand of this pan-European movement is to cancel or change this green policy,” Potocki said, adding that the European Commission and EU member states will agree to some of the demands at the EU summit scheduled for March 21-22.

Read also: Poland may ban more Ukrainian imports – PM Tusk

Negotiations are also expected between the Polish government and farmers, Kyiv and Warsaw.

“The Ukraine issue was initially the main one for Polish farmers. But it seems to me that it is now being raised now simply out of tradition. First of all, there has been practically no Ukrainian grain in Poland for many months. But now the farmers are talking about other products that Ukraine is still selling in Poland.”

This strike is the largest nationwide action in nearly a year of protests that will influence political decisions amid the upcoming elections in Poland and the European Parliament.

Read also: Polish farmers protest EU Green Deal, block border with Germany, demand import ban

“Since this is a pan-European movement (...) we can expect both the European Commission and the EU member states to take a step back on green policies, because everyone is already living on the eve of the elections. In Poland we have local elections in April, and the EU is already campaigning for the European Parliament elections in June 2024. The closer we get to the elections, the more the protests influence politics.”

On March 20, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) reported that Polish protesters had blocked the movement of passenger coaches at the Medyka-Shehyni border crossing point, allowing only one coach to pass every two hours, both inbound and outbound.

According to SBGS spokesman Andriy Demchenko, farmers are holding a major strike, with road blockades and protests taking place across Poland. Truck traffic has been completely blocked at the Yagodyn and Rava-Ruska checkpoints.

Read also: Analysts debunk Polish claims against Ukrainian agro-exports

Polish protesters began restricting traffic at the border with Ukraine on Feb. 20. Trucks were blocked at the Medyka-Shehyni, Dołhobyczów-Uhryniv, Zosin-Ustyluh, Korczowa-Krakovets, Hrebenne-Rava-Ruska, and Dorohusk-Yahodyn checkpoints.

The farmers made numerous demands, including two main ones: the abolition of duty-free trade with Ukraine and the complete closure of the Ukrainian-Polish border for trucks.

Read also: Polish farmers realize ‘protests are being used by radical politicians and Russian special services,’ Deputy Economy Minister says

Protesters threw grain out of eight railroad cars carrying Ukrainian agricultural products overnight on Feb. 24-25. This was the fourth incident in recent days. Poland said it was unable to collect all the Ukrainian grain that had fallen out of the railroad cars.

The Ukrainian and Polish sides held talks on the possibility of unblocking the border and taking into account the interests of farmers on Feb. 28.

The European Parliament Committee supported the extension of duty-free trade for Ukraine on March 7. Ukraine announced on the same day that it was ready to go for trade restrictions with the EU, but on its own terms.

Polish farmers temporarily stopped blocking traffic at the Krakovets checkpoint with Ukraine on March 10. The protesters are to resume the strike at this checkpoint on March 13.

Polish farmers announced on March 11 that they would notallow any trucks to leave Ukraine through the Zosin-Ustyluh checkpoint.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine