First empty lorries pass through new Ukraine crossing at Polish border


  • World
  • Monday, 04 Dec 2023

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian trucks are seen near the Poland-Ukraine border, near the village of Korczowa, Poland November 19, 2023. REUTERS/Yan Dobronosov/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - The first 30 empty lorries drove through a newly opened Uhryniv-Dolhobychuv crossing on the Ukrainian-Polish border, which Kyiv hopes will offer relief as Polish driver protests blocked other land corridors, Ukraine's border service said on Monday.

Those protests, over what Polish truckers see as unfair competition from their Ukrainian peers, started on Nov. 6, with four border crossings now under blockade.

Polish hauliers' main demand is to stop Ukrainian truckers having permit-free access to the European Union, something that Kyiv and Brussels say is impossible.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday that Warsaw would "strongly and unequivocally" demand that the European Union restore permits for Ukrainian truckers.

He was speaking to reporters ahead of an EU ministers' meeting in Brussels set for Monday.

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary said their delegations would inform the EU about the impact of the EU-Ukraine agreement to remove permits on the road freight sector.

The permits were abolished after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. Polish drivers have been joined by Polish farmers, and later also Slovakian truckers.

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Ukraine said last week it had agreed some measures with Poland that could ease the pressure at the blockaded border crossings, but that the main demands of the protests had not been discussed.

Free passage of empty Polish lorries across the border was one of the demands that Ukraine can meet.

"As of the morning of December 4, border guards cleared 30 heavy vehicles with a total permissible weight of more than 7.5 (metric) tons for departure from Ukraine at the Uhryniv checkpoint," the service said on Telegram messaging app.

The crossing was opened at 1.00 a.m. (midnight GMT) on Monday for empty trucks.

"The ultimate goal of the work is to unblock the border, which has been blocked for a month on the Polish side and has critical consequences for the economies of both countries and the European market,", Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on the X social media platform on Sunday.

A senior Ukrainian official last week said protests on the border could cost Kyiv one percentage point of GDP growth if they drag on.

Ukrainian ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, told the state-run Ukrinform news agency that Kyiv would continue negotiations with the Polish government and had already found "common ground and compromises".

"And we hope that these proposals that we have developed together with the Polish government will be enough for the protesters to end the protest," Zvarych added.

(Additional reporting by Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw; Editing by Sharon Singleton; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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