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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Poland's Ban On Ukrainian Agriculture Must Not Stand

Poland's unilateral decision to ban imports of Ukraine's agricultural products, in violation of EU agreements, has caused shock among Ukrainians. Nazar Bobytsky, head of the Ukrainian office of the Polish Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, says Brussels must show Kyiv it is serious about Ukraine joining the EU.

Photo of a Polish policeman protecting a train carrying Ukrainian grain  on the border of Poland

Policemen protect a train carrying Ukrainian grain at the broad-gauge railway line crossing in Hrubieszow border town.

Nazar Bobytskyi


KYIV — The announcement by Poland's government on Saturday of a ban on grain imports and other agricultural products from Ukraine was motivated by a single reason: to protect the Polish agriculture sector.

Yet the negative consequences of such a step for the Ukrainian economy are clear and immediate: the ban on imports, as well as on transit, threatens to disrupt hard-won export contracts, forces a revision of plans for the planting season, and disrupts the logistics supply chains built up with such difficulty as a much-needed alternative to the sea route.

But the ban also could have longer-term effects, including the undermining of investment plans to build transfer points for bulk agricultural goods on the Ukrainian-Polish border, including with the participation of European and international financial institutions.

The security and geopolitical implications are also becoming evident: the Kremlin will seize the moment to begin trying to sabotage the grain corridor agreements with Ukraine.

However, Ukraine should pay extra attention to the systemic damage that this ill-conceived move by the Polish economic ministry causes to trade relations between Ukraine and the EU. Hungary quickly followed this precedent and introduced a similar ban, and Bulgaria is on the way.

And this is happening as Ukraine and the European Union institutions prepare for the next, most crucial stage of Ukraine's EU integration, the start of pre-accession negotiations on Kyiv's membership in the Union.

What about Polish wine?

This move by Poland violates the Association Agreement by banning imports of Ukrainian goods into its national border, but as an integral part of the EU internal market. The decision of the Polish Ministry can hardly be called compatible with the EU legislation itself, namely the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which guarantees the unimpeded circulation of goods within the customs union. For goods originating from approved third countries (such as Ukraine), the EU Treaty directly and unambiguously grants the same status as goods of European origin.

Can the inclusion of Ukrainian wines in the ban list be explained by the critical situation of Polish wine producers? Is it justified to include Ukrainian beef and pork, which now cannot access the EU market?

Yes, last year's decision by the EU to grant unprecedented duty-free and quota-free imports to Ukrainian goods also came with a safeguard mechanism, but activating it should have been preceded by an appropriate investigation based on an objective economic analysis, taking into account the arguments of the Ukrainian side. Instead, Poland acted alone, without consultation.

Photo of grain vessel arriving in Odesa in Ukraine

A vessel is seen in the port upon arriving under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Odesa, southern Ukraine

Yulii Zozulia/Ukrinform/Zuma

Grain is not a weapon 

The decision of the Polish Ministry lays several dangerous precedents. First, it calls into question the integrity and effectiveness of the EU internal market both from an economic and legal point of view. Such doubts will only grow if Ukraine will does see a decisive and effective response from the European Commission to the steps taken by Polish officials shortly.

The Polish side is counting on Kyiv's "understanding"

Budapest's almost lightning-fast mirror decision should be considered the first bad sign of a ripple effect. Such a precedent does not bode well for the pre-accession negotiations between Ukraine and the EU, as it indicates to the Ukrainian side that it is possible to correct future "distortions" in EU trade liberalization that will inevitably arise from Ukraine's economic integration into the European market.

The decision of the Polish side was made in an atmosphere of a heated election campaign in the country and in the context of comprehensive political agreements reached during President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to Warsaw.
The Polish side is counting on Kyiv's "understanding" of the problem in the agricultural sector of its key ally on the eve of the election cycle.

However, is such a tradeoff worth it to Ukraine?

Yet, the unilateral decision of the Polish government frees Kyiv to confront Europe about the nature of its agreement on trade, both for the present and future.

We must separate military-strategic cooperation from matters that are in a qualitatively different plane of Ukrainian-European relations, taking into account the impact of imports on the situation on the EU market as a whole and taking into account the arguments of the Ukrainian side.

In the long term, Brussels should prioritize funding for projects related to the transshipment and transit of Baltic agriculture across the Ukrainian-Polish border. The Commission should remove unnecessary bureaucracy and regulatory restrictions from EU financial instruments in transport policy.

Otherwise, the Ukrainian side has every reason to assert its right to demand compensation for the losses as a result of the violation of the standing trade agreement with the EU.

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Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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