The fact that the border of Poland with Ukraine will again be completely blocked by Polish farmers on 02/02/2024 was announced by the former Minister of Agriculture of Poland, now a member of the Sejm from the former ruling party, Robert Telus. This time the border blockade is organized by the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union of Individual Farmers (NSPS IF) “Solidarity”, a member of the presidium of which is also the above-mentioned Mr. Robert Telus. The communiqué published on the website of the NSPS IF "Solidarity" states that the organization will begin a blockade of all border crossings with Ukraine on 02/09/2024 at 10:00. There is no information on whether the railway connection will also be blocked, but this cannot be ruled out either. The organizers call the reason for the blockade a protest against EU policies; in particular, they do not want the import of agricultural products and food products from Ukraine.
If Ukraine reacts urgently, then this can be completely avoided. All previous times, the border with Ukraine was blocked not by farmers or transporters, but by the Polish police, which in the end was obvious to everyone. The protesters themselves, according to Polish law, could not obtain permission to block roads crossing the border or leading to border checkpoints, since such roads have the status of state “ drogi krajowe ”. Local authorities and self-government do not have the right to manage these roads and issue permits to block them. Permits were issued for demonstrations not on the carriageways of these roads, but next to the roads. The blocking was carried out as if to ensure the safety of the protesters. For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the Polish police, in the same way, previously ensured the safety of Ukrainians who protested against the continuation of transport links with Belarus and Russia on the Polish border with Belarus. That is, to prevent repeated blockades of Poland’s border with Ukraine, which is also the EU border, it is enough for units of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs, in particular the police, to ensure the safety of protesters not by blocking the state road and border, but in another way. For example, by fencing protest sites on the side of the road and providing an appropriate number of security guards for protesters. This is exactly what Ukrainian government officials should have demanded since the border blockade began. Then the Polish government would either take responsibility for actually denouncing agreements with the EU unilaterally, or oblige the police to ensure the safety of protesters without blocking the carriageway of state roads and the border of Poland and the EU with Ukraine.
At the same time, Ukraine must also communicate with Polish society. Because in Poland, as in any democratic country, if the “authority” does not fulfill the will of the people, then it quickly ceases to be “authority”. It is necessary to convey to the citizens of Poland that the blockade of the border with Ukraine cannot in any way solve the problems of Polish farmers, which I wrote about in detail earlier in a specialized publication. In short, the problems of Polish farmers arise because they have been engaged in obviously unprofitable activities for many years. For example, the world price of wheat on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) in terms of 1 ton is about 200 euros , the average wheat yield in Poland (as well as in Ukraine) is 4.5 tons per hectare . Thus, the gross income (it should be emphasized that it is not profit, but income) per hectare due to the sale of wheat grain at world prices is approximately 900 euros. According to calculations by the Greater Poland Chamber of Agriculture , the current cost of growing 1 hectare of wheat in Poland is 8381 zloty, or about 1905 euros. This situation has existed for decades. No changes in EU regulations can change this situation. That is, the low incomes of Polish farmers are not the fault of the EU, which, on the contrary, compensates Polish farmers for losses. Moreover, it is not Ukraine’s fault. Unlawful actions on the part of Poland, that is, those that directly violate treaties with the EU, are like sawing the branch on which you are sitting. Can farming in Europe be profitable? - Of course it can. For example, in the Netherlands, farmers do not have such problems because they are developing high-tech agriculture. In 2021, Dutch agricultural exports amounted to €75.7 billion , with a total cultivated area of 1.8 million hectares. For comparison, exports of agricultural products from Ukraine in 2021 amounted to $27.8 billion, that is, about 3 times less, with an agricultural area. lands are larger by more than an order of magnitude. That is, the power of the Ukrainian agricultural sector, to put it mildly, is somewhat exaggerated. The average export per hectare in the Netherlands was 42,056 euros. It is clear that the Netherlands does not grow grain, the income from the sale of which per 1 hectare is 900 euros, according to world prices. For Dutch farmers, grain is a raw material – animal feed. They process it into milk and meat. They are also engaged, for example, in growing vegetables in modern greenhouses, the yield of which is up to 100 tons per hectare, with the wholesale price of a ton of such vegetables being 500 euros, which gives an income of up to 50 thousand euros per hectare, compare with income from the sale of grain - 900 euros . That is, the previous government should have created appropriate investment, training, etc. programs for Polish farmers. This should have been done personally by Mr. Robert Telus, who is now organizing the protests. This needs to be communicated to Polish society and, in particular, to farmers. And this had to be done since April 15, 2023, when the Polish government introduced an embargo on Ukrainian grain.
Ukrainian business needs to take on the issue of advocacy, that is, presenting Ukraine’s position in relations with Poland and the EU into its own hands. At least at this stage, until the end of the war. Because the state administration, which receives funds from taxes for this, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ukrainian Embassy in Poland, have shown their professional incompetence. Because of this, illegal actions such as unilateral embargoes on Ukrainian products and blockades of the western border have become commonplace. Without doing practically anything, the Ukrainian state administration managed to create the impression that it had quarreled with all its neighbors, and now it is necessary to rebuild relations.
Of course, one can shift the responsibility to the previous government of Poland, formed by the Law and Justice party (PiS), which, on the eve of the elections, decided to blame Ukraine for inflation, the low standard of living of Polish farmers and all other problems that arose during the more than 8-year tenure of this party. political force in power. They really did this by using Ukraine as a “sacrificial goat”, that is, a “scapegoat” through a campaign in the media they control. However, why then does Ukraine need an embassy at all? A mannequin with the function of the simplest chatbot can smile and say standard phrases in the style of “I hope our countries will be able to reach an agreement.” It is necessary to conduct a substantive dialogue, first of all, with Polish society, as well as societies of other EU countries.
Was there such communication with Polish society to present the Ukrainian position on blaming Ukraine for all the troubles? How many comments or interviews did the Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland give to Polish media on the blockade of Ukrainian products, which began on April 15, 2023 and continues until this moment? How many events have been organized on this occasion at the initiative of the embassy? How many articles have been written in the Polish media to convey Ukraine’s position on this issue to Polish society? Judging by the materials posted on the embassy’s website – zero! The only event organized during this period on the initiative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Poland was a football tournament with the participation of teams from diplomatic institutions accredited in Poland. The embassy's website includes a position on Nelson Mandela Day, a position on the crisis in the Middle East, a statement on World Press Freedom Day, and other activity simulations. There is not a single statement, event, article or interview with Polish media on the embargo on Ukrainian products and the border blockade. Not a single position. It should be noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot prepare such a position without the embassy, which must have the political, economic and information context of the country, know the mentality and feel the mood of society. And on the part of this embassy - a complete profanation of work. Vadim Prystaiko, who did an excellent job as ambassador to Britain, was fired. However, the head of the Polish embassy, who committed a failure of historic proportions, continues to hold his position. And according to this personnel logic, apparently, he will soon head the ministry instead of Kuleba.
Poland is a country that was one of the first to provide Ukraine with weapons, including airplanes, opened its borders and sincerely welcomed millions (!) of Ukrainian refugees, is the second (after China) largest trading partner of Ukraine and the largest importer of Ukrainian goods, a country through which passed more than 50% of Ukraine’s logistics flows, including military ones. How did Ukraine allow relations with these people to deteriorate? You need to understand that politicians do positive things precisely according to the will of the people. And it is with the people that we should start talking, and this should have been done last spring, but now, of course, is not too late either.
The reasons for such negative selection of personnel should be the subject of a separate article, but now we should focus on ensuring that our peoples reach mutual understanding. Let us help the government of Donald Tusk in this endeavor.
How will the Poles, in particular Polish farmers, perceive the position of Ukraine that I have developed? – Positive, because this is an adequate position based on logic and calculations. This position was published by the author in specialized Polish publications, in particular in the Trade Gazette and Agrarian Entrepreneur , and was repeatedly voiced at events dedicated to Ukrainian-Polish cooperation. The author is forced to do this work as a social activist, out of partiality, because he cannot calmly look at “this hellish torment.” While there is a whole trade and economic department at the embassy, not to mention the government as such. Thanks to these publications, the author is invited to participate in the “ 9th European Congress of Agribusiness Managers ”, which will be held in Poland on February 22. Considerable attention will be paid to cooperation with Ukraine. Polish officials will also participate in this event: the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development - Mr. Czeslaw Sekierski, and his deputy - Mr. Michal Kolodziejczak . The author will communicate with the latter as part of a panel discussion. Opportunities for cooperation with Ukraine are discussed at almost every business event in Poland, because the Poles are trying to find ways and opportunities for such cooperation. Why are the Ambassador of Ukraine or other representatives of the Ukrainian government not participating in such events? The answer is quite simple - no ideas, no position, no one and nothing to talk about. Competent people who have and express their thoughts, within the framework of the existing management culture, will face the fate of Mr. Vadim Prystaiko. Efficiency is not measured by the results of activities, but by how a person knows how to please his sovereign or master. In the conditions of feudal culture in the state administration of Ukraine, it is more appropriate to call leaders that way. Therefore, Prystaiko was fired despite the huge success, and the current representative of Ukraine in Poland feels good despite the huge failure. People who were selected and remained in positions within this culture will naturally not be invited, because their main competency is the ability to please management, sometimes in a rather specific way. There is nothing to talk about with them.
It is possible to reach an agreement with the Poles and other Europeans. But this can only happen thanks to their own desire and the work of the public environment of Ukraine, including business associations. By organizing direct dialogue with European friends and partners. An example of such an agreement could be the Joint Appeal of Polish and Ukrainian organizations, signed at the “ 20th Dairy Cooperation Forum ”, which was held on September 20-21, 2023. The author personally had the honor of participating in the development and approval of this document, its essence can be boiled down to one phrase: “ Dairy enterprises in Poland and Ukraine support free trade without any political restrictions, duties, quotas and other restrictions, with transparent and stable rules , which are predictable and the same for both parties ." And, in conclusion, it is significant that this forum was also attended by the then Polish government officials of the highest rank, in particular the Minister of Agrarian Policy and Rural Development - Mr. Robert Telus, as well as the European Commissioner for Agrarian Policy - Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski (whose report, in fact, also concerned Ukraine). The highly respected Ukrainian government at a certain point also agreed to delegate two of its representatives in the person of deputy ministers of the relevant ministry. One of whom could not come due to the fact that NABU and SAPO opened a criminal case against him, and the other simply refused without explanation. That deputy minister, who refused without explanation, asked to arrange for himself a hotel room with a special bed, because he has about 2 centners of live weight, which the organizers politely complied with. But the funny thing is that he didn’t ask for this for himself; it was his assistant’s secretary who did it. Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister... It is clear that such a respected and high-ranking Mr. Deputy Minister has many other things to do and he does not have time to go and communicate with some Polish minister, European Commissioner or Polish media as part of the event.
Thus, if Ukrainian business does not want to constantly be in the role of a “sacrificial goat,” it should take matters into its own hands, lobby for its interests and negotiate on its own, there are no alternatives. The positive news is that it is quite possible to reach an agreement if you work at it. I sincerely invite you to cooperation.
Author: Yuliy Zorya , Polish entrepreneur of Ukrainian origin, expert on trade and cooperation between Ukraine and Poland.