Minister of Agriculture of Hungary István Nagy gave an in-depth interview on the Hungarian public radio on Sunday, 17 September, in which he strongly criticized the European Commission for not extending the import ban on certain food products coming from Ukraine that had expired on 15 September.
Nagy alleges that the EU is protecting big-capital investors with this decision. As he claims, EU leaders in their rhetoric stood up for the small ‘Ukrainian farmer’, when in fact, whose interest they served was ‘US, Saudi, and Dutch companies and investors’. He also added that
despite what the EC claims, the lifting of the ban does hurt European markets,
and not just those of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the five countries that had originally raised their concerns about the glut of Ukrainian import grain in Europe. He also pointed out that the controversial decision came right after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
In response, the Hungarian government unilaterally imposed a new ban on 24 types of agricultural goods from our Eastern neighbour, which include sunflower seed, flour, cooking oil, rapeseed, honey, and eggs. Minister Nagy went on to call this move by the Orbán administration ‘brave’, since, as he admits, such decisions are not typically within the power of individual Member States. Despite that, Poland and Slovakia have already followed suit in imposing a new ban, Romania is expected to do so, while Bulgaria has formally raised its objection to the lifting of the embargo, the Minister informed.
The controversy over the influx of low-quality Ukrainian grain and food products first emerged back in February of this year, when farmers in Poland began protesting about the issue which caused a big drop in crop prices. What made matters worse was that the EU had previously made these agricultural products from Ukraine tariff-free, in order to facilitate getting them to their intended destinations, as the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war caused many of the usual trade routes to close down. However, much of the imported goods ended up being ‘stuck’ in Europe, causing the crop crisis.
Poland and Hungary were the first to put a stop to the deluge of crops from Ukraine with bans back in April, which was followed by a temporary embargo imposed by the EU as a whole on 2 May. It is the latter that reached its expiry date on 15 September, which is why Eastern European nations decided to act on their own.
Sources: Hungarian Conservative/MTI