Hungarian and Polish farmers stage protest on border with Ukraine

Farmers protests
Farmers protests Copyright Associated Press
By Eloise Hardy with Euronews
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Farmers have been protesting across several member states over low-cost imports of Ukrainian and Moldovan produce and EU green regulations.

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Farmers in Hungary and Poland protested along border crossings with Ukraine on Friday, voicing their anger against duty-free imports of Ukrainian agricultural produce.

In Hungary, many participants blamed the EU for their difficulties.

These demonstrations were triggered by last week's European Commission proposal that all Ukrainian imports into the EU remain free of duties until at least June 2025.

However, the proposal would cap some agricultural products - including some Ukrainian sugar, poultry and eggs - in a bid to quell rising unrest among farmers.

The duty-free measures were first introduced following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 to help the country's economy, which is hugely dependent on agricultural and steel exports. 

Similar duty-free measures will also be applied to the EU's trade agreement with Moldova.

Last week's announcement by the Commission added to a long list of grievances for Europe's farmers that also includes economic losses from the climate crisis and the bloc's green policies which they say are contradictory, and unfair and leave them worried for the future.

"Many of our problems, especially those imposed by the EU bureaucrats, are hitting us all together," Imre Rácz, from the Hungarian farmer's union MAGOSZ, told Euronews at a protest near the border with Ukraine. 

"They already sense that the almost unrestricted inflow of goods of Ukrainian origin is causing market difficulties for them too."

Polish farmers are similarly outraged by what they see as the uncontrolled influx of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products into the local market.

Farmers blocked roads and border checkpoints with Ukraine and complained about the lack of profits from farming and livestock and a lack of government measures to protect their livelihoods.

Many say the Polish government - currently led by President Andrzej Duda - should block Ukrainian agricultural imports altogether.

"We also live and we also want to make a living simply," one Polish demonstrator told Euronews. "That's why we are on strike, so that our grain is our grain, and the government should block Ukrainian grain, simply".

The general strike is due to last 30 days.

According to local reports there were over 260 blockades across the country.

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