Ukraine’s anger grows as Polish truckers disrupt border crossings

WARSAW — The Polish truckers are staging a blockade at border crossings with Ukraine to demonstrate against an EU deal which permits easier access for Ukrainian drivers into the bloc at much cheaper prices. This protest follows the Polish government’s prohibition of Ukrainian grain imports to shield farmers from the inflow of inexpensive produce from Ukraine.

Dissimilar to the grain blockade, which was enforced by the Polish government, these trucker protests are not officially sanctioned by Warsaw. Since Monday, the protesters commenced the blockade at three key border crossings and have vowed to cease commercial traffic until the Polish government and decision-makers in Brussels reinstate the limits on transport operations for Ukrainian haulers that were in effect before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

“We’re going to do it the way farmers did — keep protesting until the government acknowledges there is a problem and does something about it,” said Jacek Sokół, who owns a small trucking company in Łuków in eastern Poland, and helped organize the blockade.

Polish transport industry states that Ukrainian trucks have crossed the Polish border almost 900,000 times this year, whereas prior to the war, only around 180,000 trucks a year used to cross into Poland.

Protesters have outlined that they intend to allow only one truck to pass every hour, except for vehicles carrying humanitarian and military help, animals, or perishable products. Passenger cars will also be permitted.

While the Polish and Ukrainian governments along with the European Commission urge protesters to let the trucks through, the European Transport Commissioner has expressed his dismay at the border blockade, indicating it as being un-European.

Poland’s ministry of infrastructure commented in an email that it urged the protest committee to lift the blockade. Warsaw emphasizes that its hands are tied until the expiration of the EU deal, which was also secured with Moldova.

With protests escalating, the concerns around competition grow, especially from the perspective of Polish truckers who fear the influx of cheaper rivals from the east.

“This protest has fallen into a decision vacuum as the old government is on its way out and the new one hasn’t taken over yet. It’s a spontaneous action since people have simply had enough,” said Maciej Wroński, CEO of Polish Transport and Logistics, a lobby group.

These border protests are seen as an additional challenge for Ukraine, which is already grappling with the impact of the Polish grain ban, affecting its export of goods necessary for its wartime economy.

Veronika Melkozerova reported from Kyiv and Jeremy Van Der Haegen from Brussels.


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