For almost a year, Ukraine’s Western border checkpoints haven’t offered a clear passage to the EU: from time to time, they are taken over by protesters.
Firstly, these were Polish farmers who blocked control points between the two countries during last April.
In November, truckers in Poland built a blockade that grew longer and larger, then the farmers joined them. For weeks they only allowed humanitarian cargo and a limited number of commercial trucks to pass through to Ukraine, causing significant delays to supplies for the Ukrainian military. This resulted in about $1.5 billion in losses for the Ukrainian economy, just in November-December.
Both farmers and truckers demanded stronger regulation on their Ukrainian counterparts. At the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, these groups had de facto equal rights with the EU truckers. Ukraine’s neighbours felt this strongly. They feared price-dumping for goods and services. Cheap grain and logistics disrupted their markets. For example, due to an influx of Ukrainian grain, wheat on a Polish agricultural exchange in 2023 was sold for half as much as in 2021.
Emotions of Polish farmers are best described by the name of their initiative group – “Deceived village”. Similar feelings were expressed by their Romanian, Slovak and Hungarian colleagues. In the last three months, all these countries’ border crossing points with Ukraine were blockaded for hours ― or weeks.
This is the beginning of the story. As Kyiv is already in accession talks with Brussels, the Ukrainian market will someday merge with the EU. And Ukraine is an agricultural powerhouse. Wheat is just one item. For corn, barley or rapeseed, it’s among the top world exporters. The country also produces tomatoes, honey and poultry, so there are reasons for EU farmers to worry.
An intricate process of aligning two economies is required. Otherwise there will be more protests ― even louder ones.