Polish truckers expand Ukraine border crossing blockade
Polish truckers and farmers on Monday launch a round-the-clock blockade of busy border post over ‘unfair’ exemptions for Ukrainian truckers
Warsaw — Polish truckers and farmers on Monday started a round-the-clock blockade of access to one of the busiest border crossings with Ukraine, extending a protest that has left more than a thousand lorries stranded for days in queues that stretch for kilometres.
The truckers, now blocking the Medyka crossing as well as three other border crossings, complain they are losing out to Ukrainian companies that offer cheaper prices for their services and that are transporting goods within the EU, rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.
“I would like to end this protest as soon as possible, because it is as burdensome for us as for everyone around us,” said Tomasz Borkowski, leader of the Committee to Protect Transporters and Transport Employers, a Polish union.
“We have no intention of giving up and we will stand until we get our terms.”
Polish truckers started their protest on November 6, demanding that the EU reintroduce a permit system for Ukrainian truckers entering the bloc and for EU truckers entering Ukraine, with exemptions for humanitarian aid and military supplies.
The system was lifted after Russia invaded the country in 2022.
The truckers also want empty trucks from the EU to be excluded from an electronic queuing system in Ukraine and measures to stop Belarusian and Russian hauliers setting up companies in Poland to get around sanctions.
The current waiting time for trucks to cross at Medyka, one of eight road border crossings with Ukraine, is 91 hours according to data from the Polish border guard.
Ukraine says the protest is damaging its fragile wartime economy by hampering exports and stopping supplies of essentials like motor vehicle gas (LPG) from entering the country. Kyiv also says humanitarian aid has been blocked, which the protesters deny.
No constructive talks
Poland’s infrastructure minister Andrzej Adamczyk has written to Ukraine to request that EU drivers with empty trucks be exempt from the electronic queuing system at at least two crossings, his ministry said in a statement.
The infrastructure ministry also said that Adamczyk had asked Adina Valean, European commissioner for Transport, to establish a joint committee to analyse the effects of lifting the requirement to have permits in the bloc’s transport market.
However, truckers say that both the outgoing Polish government and a coalition of pro-European Union parties that looks set to take power following last month's national election, have shown a lack of interest in their problems.
“There are no constructive talks, nobody wants to meet us,” said Jacek Sokol of the Committee to Protect Transporters and Transport Employers, referring to the government.
With much attention in Poland focused on attempts to form a new government, the far-right Confederation party, which argued during the election campaign that Poland had gone too far in helping Ukraine, has been the most vocal supporter of the protests.
The mainstream opposition has laid responsibility at the door of Mateusz Morawiecki’s outgoing nationalist Law and Justice government.
“It would be good if Polish carriers ... blocked Mr Morawiecki, because he is responsible for this situation,” said Marcin Kerwinski, a legislator from the liberal Civic Coalition grouping.
In Medyka truckers are joining a protest organised by farmers who are demanding that government support to help them deal with low grain prices be continued.
Two trucks per hour are being let through at Medyka, the protesters say, with exemptions for humanitarian aid and war supplies.
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.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.