The “grain issue” has become another clear evidence of huge disproportions in, at first glance, impeccable relations between Moldova and Ukraine
Semen ALBU, RTA:
The policy of the ruling party focusing on Ukraine since February 2022 has long been no secret. After small hesitation in the first weeks of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, our government, convinced of the Ukrainian stability, quickly jumped into the anti-Russian trench, where it cuts all ties with Moscow. At the same time, it pursues maximum solidarity with Kyiv, implying the unconditional priority of Ukrainian needs in bilateral relations.
At the first approximation, we are dealing great with Ukraine. Top officials and leaders of the two countries pay regularly mutual visits. Moldova consistently takes a pro-Ukrainian position on the diplomatic fronts, supporting the relevant UN resolutions, participating in meetings of the Crimean Platform, etc. In addition, we provided our eastern neighbor with our logistics capabilities, as the most simplified mode of transit transportation of various goods to and from Ukraine. At the same time, we hold negotiations to expand the network of transport corridors on the territory of the two countries. Do not forget about the import of Ukrainian electricity, which is justified only politically, since its price exceeds the offer of the left bank.
Though, our “cloudless” relations with Kyiv are achieved mainly by ignoring the actual Moldovan interests and uncomfortable questions. The action with the kidnapping of the Ukrainian judge Chaus on Moldovan territory has long been forgotten. The Dniester ecology issue and the threat of the river drying up due to the operation of the Dniester PSP disappeared from the radar. The media quickly hushed up the situation with the partial flooding of some Moldovan villages last November, when our partners, apparently without notifying their Moldovan colleagues, increased the discharge of water at the Dniester reservoir for additional energy generation. I recall an attempt by the Security Service of Ukraine to arrange a terrorist attack in Transnistria, and I fully admit that it was planned, since cautious Tiraspol would unlikely have dared to disperse an outright fake, and we have seen plenty of “subversive actions” performed by Ukrainians. We can imagine how untimely this would be for our authorities, who are preparing to host the summit of the European Political Community.
In general, this is such a “one-way street”, where we are forced to sacrifice our interests and endure losses “for the sake of solidarity”.
Among other things, this alignment greatly harms our agricultural industry. Remember last year, when right before the harvest campaign, diesel fuel prices shot up? Then it turned out that this happened due to the fact that all our fuel carriers were bought by Ukrainian oil traders. But this is just one of the examples.
This year the situation is much worse. Due to the ongoing import to Moldova of cheap products from Ukraine, prices have collapsed on our market. The price of wheat, for example, fell from five lei last year to less than three lei this year. And this is almost half, almost already below the cost. An even bigger collapse on sunflower market. Local producers talk about at least two billion lei losses. The storage of the manufactured products is a challenge as well.
Farmers’ associations say that most small and medium-sized farmers are on the verge of bankruptcy and are demanding urgent action from the authorities, threatening protests after the end of the planting season. And this is not only about support from the state, but, first of all, about the ban on imports from Ukraine.
Of course, appealing to such sanctions, our farmers are guided by other countries in the region, which have recently begun to apply measures to protect their agricultural producers. Let me remind you that in mid-April, Poland unilaterally banned the import and even transit through its territory of Ukrainian grain, sunflower and other crops. Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania quickly followed suit.
Looking at the obvious dissatisfaction of the EU and Ukraine with this opposition, our government quickly mentioned that it was not even thinking about anything like that. However, the situation began to develop in an unexpected direction. Soon, the European Commission, after negotiations with the five rebellious states, backtracked and introduced own ban from May 2 to June 5 on the import of Ukrainian wheat, rapeseed, corn and sunflower seeds to these five countries, and in addition allocated a financial assistance package for their farmers. The only thing that the European Commission has achieved for Ukraine is the lifting of the ban on the transit of its agricultural products.
Inspired by this example, our farmers also began to demand similar protection measures from the government. And it seems like they even received assurances. The main supporter of the protectionist steps was the Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Vladimir Bolea, who later informed his Ukrainian counterpart of Chisinau’s intention to temporarily ban the import of the same four crops that were included in the EC mechanism. A couple of days ago, already aware of the negative reaction from Kyiv, he confirmed that he would not change his mind about the bans and “focus on the interests of local farmers.”
Less than in two days the minister “backpedaled” and announced that Moldova would not join the EU restrictions after all. He tried to justify himself that Ukrainian imports do not really affect pricing in our market, “the government of Moldova is next to the people of Ukraine”, and Kyiv’s retaliatory measures would lead to economic losses of tens of millions of euros.
It seems that it was the last argument that actually became decisive, since otherwise the usually more or less sane Vladimir Bolea is clearly disingenuous. Apparently, our government was frankly afraid to quarrel with the eastern neighbor, who in an ultimatum threatened to ban all Moldovan exports in response. It is characteristic that in relation to the EU countries that protected their farmers, Kyiv did not resort to such threats, limiting only to officially expressed “regrets”. But, apparently, one can behave differently with a small Moldova, regardless of its interests.
The “grain issue” has become another confirmation of the huge disproportions in Moldovan-Ukrainian relations. Again, the interests of Kyiv prevailed in the PAS politics over the current national challenges. Whether out of fear or for some other reason, it does not matter. However, the very fact that the authorities chose to risk the ruin of local farmers and a new round of the national social and political crisis only in order not to violate the “solidarity regime” with Ukraine raises a bunch of questions without answer, as custom has it.