Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Polish truck protest at Ukraine border disrupts war supplies

  • A dedicated border crossing point in Poland was opened this week for empty trucks leaving Ukraine to enter the EU (Photo: PES Communications)
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A disruption in cargo traffic due to protests at the border between Ukraine and Poland is escalating, potentially affecting the delivery of military aid to Ukraine.

But the Polish solution — to reintroduce permits for Ukraine drivers — has been described as "a shot to the head" in times of war.

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Polish truckers complain that Ukrainian drivers are offering lower prices for their services and have been blocking several crossing points with Ukraine since early November.

To ease the situation, Warsaw has called on the EU to reintroduce the permit system whereby Ukrainian transport companies will need a warrant to drive goods into the EU.

Hungary and Slovakia both supported Poland's request.

But Ukrainian ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, has described the reintroduction of permits as equivalent to "a shot in the head" in times of war, Polish media reported.

"I believe that this protest cannot be extended any further, because each day of prolongation of this protest results in huge losses, not only for the Ukrainian economy, but also for Poland and other foreign companies in Europe," he said on Wednesday (6 December).

Cargo traffic at the Yahodyn-Dorohusk and Rava-Ruska-Hrebenne crossing points has been significantly affected for weeks.

Less than 300 trucks are crossing into Poland per day, although bilateral agreements between Poland and Ukraine stipulate that 900 trucks can usually cross these border crossing points per day.

Poland has seen a drop in the road transport market between Poland and Ukraine since the permit system was abolished after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

According to the Polish infrastructure ministry, the share of Polish hauliers was around 37 percent but now it has fallen to around 10 percent. Meanwhile, the share of Ukrainian hauliers has risen to 90 percent.

'Not acceptable'

Earlier this week, the EU transport commissioner Adina Vălean said that the idea of going back to permits is "not acceptable".

"At very low temperatures, without proper sanitary conditions, the situation of the truck drivers blocked in the queue is dramatic," Vălean said after a meeting with transport ministers on Monday.

"Our external borders of the European Union are taken hostage," she also said, slamming Poland for not ensuring that the road agreement with Ukraine is respected.

Polish authorities, for their part, have portrayed the EU Commission as "the key" to ending the blockades at the border.

And Polish protesters have received support from other haulier associations from Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Since last Friday, Slovak hauliers have joined Polish truckers in blocking the main border crossing with Ukraine.

But Ukrainian customs and border guards have reported the reopening of the Uzhgorod-Vyshnye Nemetske border, as of Tuesday.

Military aid on hold

Meanwhile, concern about the impact on timely deliveries of military aid to Ukraine are rising.

While Poland says that humanitarian and military transport should not be affected by the protests, organisations supplying military aid to Ukraine told Reuters that they are facing weeks of delays in their deliveries.

"If the blockade continues, this could become, and already is becoming, a big problem," Viktor Dolhopiatov, head of the NGO Engineering Corps, which proceeded various types of equipment for the Ukrainian armed forces told Reuters.

And the commission, which has sent a delegation to the ground, has also questioned whether conditions are being met by protesters since almost no trucks have been able to cross the borders for the last weeks.

Nevertheless, a dedicated border crossing point in Poland was opened this week for empty trucks leaving Ukraine to enter the EU.

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