Ukraine protest brings Poland to standstill
Traffic in cities and town across Poland was severely obstructed on Friday as farmers staged protests over what they consider to be unfair competition from cheap Ukrainian produce, as well as the EU’s green policies. Over the past few months, Polish agricultural workers have also repeatedly blocked the border with Ukraine.
The month of January saw similar demonstrations in other EU nations, including Germany, France, and the Netherlands, over Brussels’ climate policies which have led to fuel price hikes. German farmers have been demanding that Chancellor Olaf Scholz reverse the proposed scrapping of a diesel fuel subsidy worth as much as €3,000 ($3,260) annually.
The authorities in neighboring France withdrew plans to cut similar subsidies after farmers blocked a major highway near Paris last month.
Organized by the Solidarity trade union, Friday’s protest affected around 260 localities across Poland, with thousands of farmers blocking or slowing down traffic with tractors and other heavy machinery. They also blocked several border crossings with Ukraine.
Several highways leading to the capital, Warsaw, were congested as a result of the demonstration, local police reported.
In a statement released ahead of the protest last week, Solidarity said it was planning to set up road blockades until March 10. The trade union called out the Polish government for readily accepting the EU’s guidelines on the “import of agricultural produce and food products from Ukraine.” The protesters also called the position adopted by Brussels at the latest EU summit “unacceptable.”
Similar rallies were held across Poland in January.
A separate protest by another group of farmers and truckers blocking a key border crossing with Ukraine saw Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government capitulate to the protesters’ demands, which included reinstating a permit system for Ukrainian truckers, adopting government subsidies for Polish corn, and a moratorium on tax hikes.
Last Thursday, the European Commission proposed extending the suspension of customs duties on agricultural goods from Ukraine and Moldova through 2025. The measure was originally scheduled to expire this year.
Thousands of farmers from across the bloc descended on Brussels ahead of that summit, throwing eggs, rocks, and fireworks at the EU Parliament building and setting huge piles of manure on fire.