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Czech MEP seeks to disrupt extension of free trade with Ukraine – Politico

Sunday, 21 April 2024, 12:28
Czech MEP seeks to disrupt extension of free trade with Ukraine – Politico
Farmers drive their tractors during a protest in Prague, Czech Republic. Stock photo: Getty Images

A Czech MEP, an ally of former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, is attempting to gain the support of his counterparts in an attempt to change the rules of free trade with Ukraine.

Source: Politico, having studied relevant emails, as reported by European Pravda

Details: During an 11-hour speech on Thursday, Martin Hlaváček invited all members of the European Parliament to join him in submitting amendments to further tighten restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural products within the context of the extension of trade liberalisation measures.


The MEP made the move just ahead of a plenary vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday, where MEPs will vote on whether to extend the free trade regime for a year, although with restrictions. If Hlaváček, from the liberal Renew group, gains enough support, it will bring the process to a halt as parliament will soon go into recess before the European Parliament elections in early June. This is when Ukraine's access to the EU market will expire.

The protégé of Babiš, the former prime minister who made his US$3.5 billion fortune in agriculture, is reintroducing the amendments after similar attempts failed in February and March.

"The trilogue negotiations have not resulted in finding satisfactory outcomes for the EU farmers," Hlaváček said in an email seen by Politico, referring to the trilateral talks between European institutions.

"This is why I still believe that our amendments could significantly contribute to improving conditions of the farmers and best eliminate shortcomings of the initial Commission proposal," he added.

If approved by the Parliament, the Czech lawmaker's amendments will increase the risk that trade liberalisation measures will not be adopted before the current ones expire in early June.

Hlaváček shifted the responsibility to the EU Council, representing the 27 EU member states.

"The Council always has the opportunity to adopt my amendments, and I think it’s a very gentle and reasonable proposal," he said.

The MEP argues that his amendments will be "favourable to Ukraine" and, at the same time, "help prevent a deterioration of commodity prices in the EU". The MEP rejects the idea that his effort was "last minute", claiming that he had been advocating for the changes for "months".

Hlaváček's amendments quickly drew condemnation from fellow Renew MEPs Karin Karlsbro, Urmas Paet, Petras Auštrevičius and Morten Petersen, as well as Sandra Kalniete and Jörgen Warborn of the centre-right European People's Party. The Czech lawmaker submitted similar amendments in previous votes, where only a small group of MEPs backed them.

If the amendments are adopted, "there will be no deal on the trade liberalisation agreement before the end of this mandate and pre-war tariffs will be reinstated," Swedish MEP Karin Karlsbro wrote in an email.

"It would send a clear signal from the European Parliament that the EU no longer stands with Ukraine, which would be a victory for Putin," she added.

Background: On 8 April, representatives of key EU institutions agreed to extend the preferential trade agreement with Ukraine, which includes stricter restrictions on imports of certain agricultural products.

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