Twelve European countries objected in a letter to the European Commission against the concessions it made to Bulgaria and four other EU members for the import of Ukrainian food.
After negotiations, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania received until June 5 the right to ban the import of four Ukrainian foods – wheat, corn, sunflower seeds and rapeseed, as well as the allocation of 156 million euros free of charge from the European budget to compensate producers affected by excessive imports of Ukrainian agricultural products.
The European Commission confirmed on Friday that it had received the letter from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Greece, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Luxembourg, Estonia, Denmark and Slovenia expressing “serious concerns” about the five-nation deals, which according to the submitters “undermine the integrity of the EU‘s internal market“.
The countries have protested that the European Commission agreed the exemptions behind their backs and without consulting them, which a spokesman denied, saying they had all been informed of the measures.
They also demand that the commission clarify the arrangements and explain how they are related to the “rules and functioning” of the EU‘s internal market and the EU‘s obligations to Ukraine and the Kyiv association agreement.
“We call on the commission to return to a transparent procedure under established rules within the framework of the functioning of the EU and its member states,” the letter says.
Ukraine is also unhappy with the deals, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling them “unacceptable restrictions” and demanding they be lifted during the European Commission president’s visit to Kyiv on May 9.
Last spring, the EU agreed to exempt Ukrainian imports from customs duty for a year as a sign of solidarity with Kyiv, which could not guarantee income from agricultural exports due to Russia blocking the main export channel – through the Black Sea.
In February, the European Commission proposed a 12-month extension to the provision, which expires on June 5, and the extension is now one vote away from the EU Council before it comes into effect after being approved by the European Parliament this week.
A spokesman for the European Commission emphasized that the concessions for the five countries are only until June 5 and that if necessary, similar measures can then be discussed for other goods and other countries, as long as it can be proven that duty-free Ukrainian imports affect the functioning the entire European market, not just the trade balances of one or a group of countries.