Polish farmers protesting at the Ukrainian border in January 2024 - Photo credit: Lublin police

EU proposes new safeguard clause in update of transport agreements with Ukraine and Moldova

The European Commission has initiated reviewing the agreement between the European Union and Ukraine concerning the road transport of goods. In its proposal, the European Commission suggests extending the road transport agreement with Ukraine and Moldova while updating the agreement terms with Ukraine. 

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The original agreements with Ukraine and Moldova were signed in June 2022 and extended until June 2024. However, with traditional transport routes in the region disrupted or closed due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the unavailability of the Black Sea as a traditional trade route for the two countries, the Commission proposes extending the agreements until at least the end of 2025 to help secure supply chains.

While the scope of the agreement remains unchanged, the Commission proposes updates aimed at enhancing the enforcement of rules applicable to carriers from Ukraine, who have been able to enter EU countries without transport permits since June 2022. These updates include making certain documentation obligatory for hauliers and strengthening compliance by road haulage operators.

In particular, the proposal would:

  • make obligatory the carrying of documents showing that a transport operator is duly authorised to perform international carriage, and that the transport is being carried out under the Agreement;
  • make obligatory the carrying of specific documents certifying that an unladen operation is directly linked to a transit or bilateral operation, as required under the Agreement;
  • strengthen compliance by road haulage operators with obligations relating to operations authorised under the Agreement, fighting fraud or forgery of driver documents and road safety-related traffic offences: such offences may lead to the withdrawal of the licence;
  • add a new safeguard clause: in case the national road transport market in a specific geographical area sees a major disturbance that can be attributed to the Agreement, the agreement could be suspended in that geographical area.

“The temporary transport agreements with Ukraine and Moldova have helped the two countries’ exports and imports moving after they lost essential transport routes due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, they may affect differently road transport operators across the Union. This is why, with today’s proposal on the agreement with Ukraine, we have also looked at how we can improve the agreement further, by making its implementation and enforcement easier and introducing a safeguard clause in case of negative impacts on regional markets in the EU,” said Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport.

The European Commission’s focus on strengthening compliance by road freight carriers and combating fraudulent activities is aimed at enhancing the implementation of the agreement without compromising mutual benefits. The positive impact of the agreement is evident in the significant increase in exports from Ukraine to the EU and vice versa.

Poland played an important role in lobbying for changes to the EU-Ukraine transport agreement, raising concerns about the impact of the agreement on the Polish road transport industry. 

In meetings and negotiations with both the Commission and Ukrainian counterparts, Poland stressed the need to address the challenges faced by road hauliers and to ensure a fair and balanced agreement. An agreement reached on 16 January, following a series of disruptive protests by Polish hauliers at the Polish-Ukrainian border, underlined the importance of including Polish proposals in the revision of the agreement.

The importance of the changes is underlined by the figures: the increase in grain imports from Ukraine to Poland reached almost 2.5 million tonnes in 2022, compared to 65.3 thousand tonnes in 2021 and 18.2 thousand tonnes in 2020. In addition, Polish exports to Ukraine increased by 113.3% in 2023 compared to 2022, demonstrating the growing economic relationship between the two countries.

As for now, proposals for changes to the agreement with Ukraine have been submitted by the European Commission for further negotiations by Member States in the Council of the European Union. Once the EU Council provides the Commission with a mandate to negotiate with Ukraine and Moldova, formal engagement will commence to reach an agreement.