Spain’s agricultural minister warned on Monday that a unilateral ban on Ukrainian grain imports by any European Union member state was unlawful, while France said European unity was at risk.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU agricultural ministers, Spain’s Luis Planas Puchades stated that “it was up to the European Commission to judge” whether any EU nations had infringed any regulations.
On Friday, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary imposed their own limitations on Ukrainian grain imports, after the European Commission’s decision not to extend its embargo on imports into Ukraine’s five EU eastern European member states.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian farmers have relied on grain shipments through neighboring countries via so-called Solidarity Lanes because they have been unable to utilize the preferred routes.
About 60% of Ukraine’s grains has been transiting through the EU alternative routes while 40% was still moving through the Black Sea until Moscow backed out of the U.N.-backed Black Sea grain deal in July.
Romania has become the conduit for more than 60% of Ukrainian grain moved by land and its prime minister said on Monday it may also extend the ban if import requests rise.
France’s agriculture minister Marc Fesneau criticised the moves, saying they called into question European solidarity.
“For solidarity there needs to be unity… We must keep hold of the two elements, otherwise the European project is at risk. The single market is a fundamental element,” Fesneau said.
He added that EU ministers were working on a proposal for a nuanced exemption from fallow land rules – rather than an outright suspension – that could help alleviate the strain on farmers.
“We cannot say at the same time that we need areas to produce biomass, to produce energy, to produce biomaterials, to secure our food supplies and remain in a status quo from a CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) that was decided before the war in Ukraine, even partly before COVID,” Fesneau said.