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EU ‘ready’ to set up fast-track trade routes for Ukraine

The European Commission is prepared to set up special trading routes between Poland and Ukraine to make sure food products and live animals can be moved as easily as possible in both directions, the EU’s farm chief said.

Ukraine has been asking Brussels to secure and ease trade flows of agri-food goods by setting up so-called green corridors, since most of its own vast food exports from Black Sea ports have been cut off by Russian attacks, dealing a blow to its economy.

“[The] European Commission is ready to organize such green corridors,” said European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski. He said this would enable Ukraine to export food via the Baltic Sea. A resumption of Ukrainian exports could also allay fears about a looming global food security crisis.

The commissioner likened the plan to what was set up during the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic, when the EU waived some checks on goods because logistical bottlenecks had caused temporary food shortages in some parts of the bloc. “I discussed this with the Polish prime minister [Mateusz Morawiecki] and everything will be done to support Ukraine.”

But Wojciechowski also stated that the first priority should remain helping refugees fleeing Ukraine. He acknowledged that all trade would be “high risk” due to recent Russian bombing not far from the Polish border.

Explicit mention of establishing green corridors was absent from the Commission’s official food response to the conflict, published last Wednesday. Ukraine’s former Agriculture Minister Roman Leshchenko had asked the EU to set up green corridors during an appearance at the European Parliament a day earlier. He later resigned, citing health reasons.

Echoing the stance taken by G7 leaders late last week, Wojciechowski stressed the importance of keeping the international trade in food flowing, and avoiding the urge to impose protectionist measures.

The Hungarian government has imposed export controls on cereals leaving its borders, prompting Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and Wojciechowski to criticize the move as “absolutely unacceptable.”

Poland’s commissioner also said he believed Ukraine should become a fully fledged EU member.

“We should do everything possible to support [the] Ukrainian aspiration to the European Union, to be part of the European community, this is very important for security of Europe,” he said.

The farm chief noted that there had been complaints for years that larger-scale Ukrainian farms unfairly undercut EU agriculture producers. But the disruption to Ukrainian farm exports has shown that the EU’s food system would benefit from incorporating Ukraine’s farms, he said.

“It would be the strengthening of European agriculture. This is my opinion, but of course there is a lot of political aspects of this decision.”

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