Polish farmers display national flags as they take part in a protest in front of the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Dorohusk, southeastern Poland, 20 February 2024. Farmers intensified their action on 20 February at border crossings with Ukraine by temporarily blocking the traffic. Hundreds of trucks are waiting in long queues to leave the country. EPA-EFE/WOJTEK JARGILO POLAND OUT


Tusk to unblock Ukraine border by labelling crossings ‘critical infrastructure’


Poland has reclassified its border crossings with Ukraine as critical infrastructure, in response to blockades by protesting farmers.

The February 22 move, which also gives the status to roads and railways near the border, will give “a 100 per cent guarantee that military and humanitarian aid will reach the Ukrainian side without any delays”, says PM Donald Tusk.

“It is very important that the Ukrainian side and our allies know that the Polish state is enforcing everything that needs to be done on this issue,” Tusk added at a press conference. 

However, Tusk also made a bid to placate the farmers protesting against agricultural imports from Ukraine and EU climate policy.

The government would continue to negotiate with Ukraine and the European Commission, and make financial support measures available to farmers, he said.

The border situation, though, must be dealt with to stop those “taking advantage of the farmers protest”, who were “serving Russian propaganda and discrediting the Polish state”. 

The remarks followed comments made by Poland’s foreign ministry on February 21 that elements within the farmers’ protest may be influenced by “Russian agents” after the appearance of pro-Putin and anti-Ukrainian banners.

Opposition parties criticised Tusk’s decision, with his predecessor as prime minister, PiS politician Mateusz Morawiecki, saying it will cause “in practice a forcible blockade of the farmers’ protest”.

Morawiecki accused Tusk of “once again wanting to solve the problem by escalating tension” and appealed to farmers not to give up on their protests.  

Michał Wawer, an opposition party MP from the radical right Confederation called Tusk’s decision “an obvious move to allow uniformed services to disperse the farmers’ strike”.

Also on February 22, Tusk rejected a proposal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the pair to meet at the border to discuss the crisis. Tusk replied that talks between the two governments were already scheduled for March.

However, with his radical measures to unblock the border crossings, Tusk has answered Zelenskyy’s call for Polish authorities to take action against the protesting farmers. 

The Tusk government faces a dilemma in trying to placate Poland’s farmers while keeping onside of both Ukraine and its fellow EU members.

The present Polish government was elected on a ticket of resolving problems its predecessors had with Brussels.

The parties making up Warsaw’s current ruling coalition are all part of the mainstream European Parliament groupings–EPP, Renew Europe and Socialists and Democrats– which, the protestors note, have backed the Green Deal and opening up EU borders to Ukrainian produce.