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Bulgaria votes to resume Ukrainian grain imports

The National Assembly of Bulgaria voted Thursday to resume imports of Ukrainian grain. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE
The National Assembly of Bulgaria voted Thursday to resume imports of Ukrainian grain. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Bulgaria on Thursday agreed to resume imports of Ukrainian grain after restricting the imports due to competition with local growers.

The Bulgarian National Assembly voted 124 to 69 to allow the resumption of imports as Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said dropping the ban would lower food prices and the government would ask the European Commission to provide compensation for farmers to offset the impact of the influx of tariff-free Ukrainian grain.

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Agricultural Minister Kiril Vatev, who had previously called for the ban to be extended, indicated that resuming imports would not negatively impact the nation's economy but said Bulgaria would increase border controls on Ukrainian imports while stepping up searches for radioactive materials and heavy metals.

"I am grateful to Bulgaria for its decision not to prolong restrictions on Ukraine's agricultural exports after Sept. 15," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. "Bulgaria sets an example of true solidarity."

The bans were implemented after farmers in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary Romania and Slovakia objected to the European Union's decision last summer to allow tariff-free imports of Ukrainian grain onto the European common market.

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Earlier this year, the European Commission agreed to allow the objecting nations to restrict Ukrainian imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds while arranging for grain to be exported in sealed trains via the five nations to other markets.

On Tuesday, the Polish Council of Ministers called on the European Commission to extend the ban beyond the Friday deadline.

"Poland will not allow Ukrainian grain to flood us. Regardless of what Brussels officials decide we will not open our borders," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Hungary and Slovakia have also indicated they intend to unilaterally extend the bans if they are not upheld by the European Commission after they are set to expire Friday.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says his nation will appeal directly to the World Trade Organization if Poland does not reverse its position.

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