EC working on second package of support for countries affected by imports from Ukraine
The European Commission (EC) is working on a second package of measures to continue supporting EU countries affected by imports from Ukraine, EC spokesperson Miriam García Ferrer told a news conference on April 17, against a background of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia unilaterally banning imports of grain and several other foodstuffs from Ukraine.
The countries have taken these steps amid oversupply resulting from imports, leading to reduced prices, impacting the countries’ farmers.
On April 17, Bulgarian caretaker Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev said that Bulgaria could also limit grain imports from Ukraine.
García Ferrer said that the EC was in contact with the EU member states taking the measures against imports from Ukraine and was seeking to understand the scope of the measures and the legal basis for them “because we don’t have full clarity on that”.
“In parallel, of course, it is important to remind that trade policy is an exclusive competence, which means that it is at EU level,” she said, adding “unilateral action is not possible under EU trade policy”.
She said that in the first package of support measures for EU countries affected by the foodstuff imports from Ukraine “we acknowledged already the impact over supply in some of the EU bordering countries and that’s why we put forward a proposal to give support to the countries mostly affected, in this case Poland, Bulgaria and Romania”.
“We are aware that there were other countries (affected) and there was a discussion in the European Council, and that’s when we said we would consider, and we are working now on, a second package of measures where we would continue supporting those countries being affected by the imports from Ukraine,” García Ferrer said.
The first package – worth 56 million euro, from the EU’s Agricultural Reserve, and of which 16 million euro was allocated to Bulgaria – had been adopted by EU member states very quickly and she expected the same would happen with the second, she said.
Asked what the sum for the second package would be, García Ferrer said: “This is still under discussion so we cannot provide any details at this stage on the amount or on the allocation criteria.
“But what is important to highlight is that we are taking into consideration the impact of these increased imports on the frontline countries,” she said, adding that the EC was very grateful to these countries for the support they had given to Ukraine being able to move its produce.
She and EC spokesperson Eric Mamer declined to be drawn on the options regarding steps the EC could take against EU countries that imposed unilateral bans on foodstuffs imports from Ukraine.
García Ferrer said that the compensation for EU countries involved money being given to the member states “and they organise the compensation and distribution to farmers” and how the compensation was distributed was not something decided at EU level.
Bulgarian caretaker Agriculture Minister Gechev told local television station bTV in an interview that Ukrainian imports of grain, sunflowers and milk were currently stagnating in some EU countries “and we are demanding fair distribution across the EU”.
Gechev said that in September 2022, Bulgaria had asked the EC to take a decision allowing the restriction of grain imports from Ukraine.
“We have been waiting for the EC to decide for six months, this issue has been raised at the highest level. What should we do, let Bulgarian farmers go bankrupt?” said Gechev, the government member who some weeks ago was filmed driving a tractor at the head of a protest by farmers to pressure Bulgaria’s government to take steps on the matter. On social networks, this led to several derisive comments about a member of the government taking part in a protest regarding a government of which he is a member.
Gechev said that he was “disappointed” by the EC saying that EU trade policy is the exclusive competence of the bloc as a whole (which, in fact, it is).
Claims that Bulgarian farmers are heavily negatively impacted by Ukrainian grain imports have been given repeated and prominent coverage by most of the Bulgarian-language media, as well as by the caretaker government appointed by President Roumen Radev. An element of pro-Kremlin propaganda against Ukraine is to stoke up public opinion against the EU facilitating Ukrainian food exports.
Bulgarian media reported that when Gechev was asked on April 17 how much Bulgarian farmers were losing because of competitive imports from Ukraine, he replied: “A lot”.
Gechev estimated the losses to Bulgarian farmers as “800 to 900 million leva” while giving absolutely no indication of the methodology by which he had somehow arrived at this supposed figure, or whether it took account of existing EU subsidies for farmers in Bulgaria.
(Photo: Andreas Krappweis/sxc.hu)
Please support The Sofia Globe’s independent journalism by becoming a subscriber to our page on Patreon: