Road haulage organisations from Central Europe have called on the European Union to end a transport agreement with Ukraine that they believe has led to unfair competition from the war-torn country.
A joint statement on November 17 was signed by the heads of Czech, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish and Slovak road transport associations and addressed to their transport ministers and the European Commission.
The Central European hauliers demand the reinstatement of the use of EU entry permits for Ukrainian trucks, a system waived by the bloc following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
They stated that the practical implementation of the agreement that eased EU access rules was “harming the competitiveness of EU road transport operators”. In light of that, the road transporters have asked for “termination or significant changes to the current EU-Ukraine agreement”.
The truckers said the degree of access given to Ukrainian drivers granted by the agreement had destabilised the road haulage market in the EU by introducing unfair competition. They said that was because Ukrainian drivers do not have to meet all the EU regulations demanded of drivers from the bloc.
The hauliers have met with representatives of the EC and the Ukrainian and Polish Governments in a bid to solve the dispute but have so far failed to reach any agreement.
Kyiv has rejected the demand to renew the requirement for EU entry permits for Ukrainian hauliers. In addition Ukraine said the protests on the Polish border that have been ongoing for the past couple of weeks are harmful to Polish-Ukrainian relations and economies.
The demonstrations are taking place at four border crossings. At one, Medyka, truckers have also been joined by farmers protesting at what they see as unfair competition from Ukraine.
By November 18, around 2,800 lorries had been gathered at three checkpoints on the border with Poland as part of protests by Polish hauliers at border checkpoints with Ukraine that have been ongoing since November 6.
Trucks waiting to get into Ukraine at the Dorohusk and Hrebenne border crossings in South-Eastern Poland have been forced to wait in lengthy queues, with one now stretching to around 42 kilometres.
On November 17, Slovak lorry drivers held a short protest on their border with Ukraine as a gesture of solidarity with their Polish counterparts. They are threatening to extend the blockade if no limits are placed on Ukrainian trucks entering the EU and demanding the return of licenses for Ukrainian drivers.
The EC is so far maintaining its position that there will be no return to licenses for Ukrainian drivers. According to Poland’s commercial radio RMF FM sources, the EC is warning that if the border blockades do not end an infringement procedure against Poland will be activated.
At a press briefing on November 16, EC spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said the key demand being made by Polish road hauliers of bringing back licensing for Ukrainian drivers was incompatible with European law.