EU should back Ukrainian grain exports, take into account interests of EU members - Spanish Presidency
This was stated by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the EU-presiding Spain, Luis Planas Puchades, who spoke in Brussels today, ahead of the EU Council of Ministers on Agriculture and Fisheries, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
"The situation is as follows: we have to support our Ukrainian friends in exporting their grain. We cannot hide from our responsibility as the European Union, as the Western world, in supporting Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and independence. Part of this is supporting grain exports. We also have tasks related to (providing) countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They need this grain, for its price and quality," the Spanish government official emphasized.
He condemned Russia for deliberately blocking Ukrainian grain exports, purposefully destroying stocks and port infrastructure during barbaric attacks against Odesa. According to a Spanish government official, this shows a deliberate attempt by Russia to weaponize hunger, exposing the world's most vulnerable nations to food insecurity and putting them on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
At the same time, the representative of the Spanish Presidency noted that the ministers intend to carefully consider the position of the five member countries bordering Ukraine (Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary), in particular, regarding the situation in their domestic agricultural markets, which has developed as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine, to study the data on the import of Ukrainian food, and to listen to the proposals of the European Commission in solving this situation.
He noted that since the outset of the Russian invasion, about 37 million tons of Ukrainian grain have been transported to foreign markets through the EU "solidarity lanes", while about 32 million tons have been transported via Black Sea routes. Preservation of the Black Sea export routes is important since shipment along the "solidarity lanes" is much more costly than transportation by sea using specialized grain carriers.
Luis Planas Puchades refrained from directly answering journalists' questions about whether the ministers would agree to the European Commission's proposal to lift the ban on the import of Ukrainian food to the five mentioned EU countries from September 15.
"I cannot predict the outcome of the discussion and political positions. The only thing we can say is that we must be clear in maintaining the unity of our member states, in particular, maintaining the unity of the EU in supporting Ukraine, which is very important. We understand these member states as well as others. We all suffer from the economic situation caused by the war in Ukraine, but for the five countries that are on its borders, they are the worst," said the Spanish minister.
As reported, in May 2023, the European Commission banned the import of wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower from Ukraine to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania at the insistence of the said countries. On June 5, the ban was extended until September 15, 2023. The governments of the mentioned states, in particular, Poland, insist on the extension of such a ban at least until the end of 2023, in order to preserve the possibility of transit of Ukrainian grain through the "solidarity lanes" to other EU countries and to the global market.