Lorries line up at Poland-Ukraine border as truckers expand blockade

Polish truckers and farmers are staging an around-the-clock blockade of the southeastern Medyka crossing.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian trucks are parked near the Poland-Ukraine border, near the village of Korczowa, Poland November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Yan Dobronosov/File Photo/File Photo
Ukrainian trucks wait to clear the Poland-Ukraine border near the village of Korczowa, Poland, on November 19, 2023 [Yan Dobronosov/Reuters]

Polish truckers and farmers have started a blockade of one of the busiest border crossings with Ukraine, expanding a protest against what they say is unfair competition from Ukraine and demanding more government support.

The Polish truckers and farmers began an around-the-clock blockade of the southeastern Medyka crossing on Monday.

Medyka is the fourth border point Polish workers have blocked since November 6, stranding thousands of lorries for days in kilometres-long lines.

The Polish truckers said they are losing out to Ukrainian companies, which offer cheaper prices and are transporting goods within the European Union rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU lifted permit requirements for Ukrainian truckers entering the bloc and for EU truckers entering Ukraine.

‘No intention of giving up’

The Polish truckers are demanding the EU reintroduce the old permit system, offering exemptions for the transport only of humanitarian and military supplies.

They also want empty trucks from the EU to be excluded from an electronic queueing system in Ukraine and measures to stop Belarusian and Russian hauliers from setting up companies in Poland to get around sanctions.

Polish farmers joining the blockade are pressuring their government to extend support to help them cope with low grain prices.

Tomasz Borkowski, leader of a Polish transporters union, said the workers are committed to maintaining the blockade until their demands are met.

“I would like to end this protest as soon as possible because it is as burdensome for us as for everyone around us,” Borkowski said.

“We have no intention of giving up, and we will stand until we get our terms.”

Long waits

Protesters said only two trucks were being allowed to pass through the Medyka border crossing per hour with exemptions made for humanitarian aid and war supplies.

This has led to a 127-hour wait for trucks to cross at Medyka, one of just eight road border crossings with Ukraine, according to data from the Polish border guard.

Ukraine said the protest is damaging its fragile wartime economy by hampering exports and stopping supplies of essentials like motor vehicle gas from entering the country.

With Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, a key export route before the war, virtually blocked by Russia, Ukrainian businesses rely on roads and railways to reroute exports and imports.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure estimated that an average of 40,000 to 50,000 trucks had been crossing the border with Poland per month via eight existing crossings, twice as many as before the war. Most of the goods are carried by Ukraine’s transport fleet.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies