Polish truckers agree to suspend border protest until March

Truck drivers had blocked border since November, demanding restrictions be reintroduced for Ukrainian hauliers.

Trucks line up in a long queue to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border
Trucks line up to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border at the Hrebenne-Rawa Ruska crossing in Potoki, Poland, due to the protest by Polish truckers [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Polish truckers have agreed to suspend a protest that had blocked some border crossings with Ukraine since November, the infrastructure minister says.

The hauliers confirmed the suspension until March but warned they would return to the border if their demands are not met.

“We’ve signed an agreement. The outcome of the agreement will be the discontinuation of protests at road border crossings in three towns: Korczowa, Hrebenne, Dorohusk,” Infrastructure Minister Dariusz Klimczak said on Tuesday.

He said that while drivers have agreed to stop protesting for nearly two months, talks were still ongoing.

Truckers are demanding that the European Union reinstate a system for Ukrainian companies requiring a permit to operate in the bloc. The truckers also want empty trucks from the EU to be excluded from an electronic queueing system in Ukraine.

The bloc waived the permit system after Russia mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but Polish hauliers said the move created unfair competition from Ukraine and took a toll on their earnings. Their protests created kilometres-long lines of trucks at the border as they tried to cross from Poland to Ukraine.

Protest co-organiser Rafal Mekler confirmed the agreement to suspend the border protest.

“The government is undertaking several commitments within the specific timeframe that are intended to fulfil the protest demands,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

“If we don’t manage to reach a solution, we will return to the border. … This is not capitulation but a strategic pause.”

The agreement, which Mekler posted on X, sets out several actions the government committed to, including launching talks with the European Commission towards securing financial support for Polish hauliers.

Another one of the organisers in Dorohusk, Edyta Ozygala, also warned that the action could be renewed at any time.

“If the effects are unsatisfactory, we will come back,” she said.

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 are parked near the Poland-Ukraine border near the Polish village of Korczowa in November 2023 [File: Yan Dobronosov/Reuters]

Ukraine says the protests have caused the country economic losses and affected its war efforts.

It said cross-border transportation has increased because of the war and because its main export and import routes across the Black Sea have been blocked.

“The key reason for the growth in the number of transportations by Ukrainian hauliers is the response to the consequences of the Russian armed aggression,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on social media on Monday.

“Transportations of fuel, humanitarian and military cargo take up about 20% of total traffic.”

The main points of the agreement include monitoring of solutions worked out jointly by Poland and Ukraine to ease the situation of EU-registered drivers in Ukraine, talks with the EU on its agreement with Ukraine and talks with the European Commission on financial support for Polish haulage companies.

The deal will provide more road checks to stop Ukrainian truckers from providing services not offered under the EU-Ukraine agreement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies