The European Commission has proposed measures to limit agricultural imports from Ukraine and offer greater flexibility on fallow land rules in a bid to quell protests by angry farmers in France and other EU members.
The Commission said it would extend the suspension of import duties on Ukrainian exports for another year to June 2025. They were originally suspended in 2022 to support Ukraine's economy following the Russian invasion, which has closed off most shipments via the traditional Black Sea route.
The Commission proposal, which will require approval from EU governments and the European Parliament, introduces an 'emergency brake' for the most sensitive products - poultry, eggs and sugar - allowing tariffs if imports exceed the average levels of 2022 and 2023.
It also allows EU members to set temporary measures if their markets are disrupted by a surge of imports of other farm produce, such as grains. For now, such remedial action was only possible if the entire EU was affected.
Ukraine's EU neighbours - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia - have complained that the farm imports have upset their markets, leading to protests by farmers and truckers.
With polls pointing to gains by the far-right in European Parliament elections in June, French President Emmanuel Macron, also called on Tuesday for clear measures on Ukrainian imports coming. French farmers have been protesting for more than two weeks over rising costs and cheap food imports.
French and Belgian farmers set up dozens of blockades on highways and on access roads to a container port on Wednesday, a day before an EU summit.
The Commission also proposed exempting EU farmers for 2024 from a requirement to keep a minimum share of their land fallow while still receiving EU farm support payments.
Farmers could instead grow nitrogen-fixing crops such as lentils or peas or catch crops that grow between plantings of a main crop, without apply plant protection products.
The Commission has also proposed to renew for another year the suspension of all duties on imports from Moldova until July 2025.