Polish truck drivers have been protesting for days against cheap competition from Ukraine. Freight forwarders now fear bankruptcy.
WARSAW taz | There are kilometers of truck traffic jams at the border crossings between Poland and Ukraine. It often takes several days, sometimes a whole week, for a truck to be dispatched. In principle, this is nothing unusual on the EU’s eastern border.
But Polish freight forwarders have been protesting here for two weeks, blocking access to the border crossings with long-distance trucks parked across them. They only allow four trucks through per hour. There are only exceptions for transports of perishable food, weapons for Ukraine, which is defending itself against the aggressor Russia, and for transports of relief goods such as medicines or power generators.
“It can’t go on like this!” says one of the freight forwarders indignantly: “The Ukrainian border guards and customs officers regularly rip us off. And how are we supposed to compete with the Ukrainian companies if we have to pay the drivers 2,500 euros, but the Ukrainians only pay 700 euros?”
Hardly any of the drivers have enough provisions for around ten days of waiting. That’s how long they’re currently standing in front of the Dorohusk border crossing near Lublin, where over 1,100 trucks are queued up in a 25-kilometer-long queue. There are also no toilets just before Poland’s border with Ukraine. No matter what the weather is, in freezing cold, snow and rain like now in November, drivers have to relieve themselves on the side of the road.
Ten days waiting time at the border
Things are not much different at the Hrebenne border crossings near Lublin and Korczowa in the Subcarpathians. Hundreds of trucks are waiting in line there too. According to police, the processing time takes more than six days. “We are standing here and freezing,” said Artur Izdebski, one of the organizers of the protest and owner of the Arpol shipping company. “We have already lost the Ukrainian market. Our truck fleets are on base and don’t make any money. If this continues, we Polish freight forwarders will go bankrupt, first the family businesses here on the eastern border, and later also the larger ones in central Poland.”
The Defense Committee of Freight Forwarders and Transport Operators (KOPiPT) directs its demands primarily to the European Union (EU)which largely lifted the previous trade restrictions for non-EU members, especially for Ukraine, after Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.
Meeting with EU representatives in Warsaw
Last Friday, a delegation of protesting freight forwarders went to the Warsaw representation of the European Commission and submitted their demands in writing. The EU should return to the rules that existed before Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine applied to all non-EU countries: Reintroduction of transport permits for Ukrainian freight forwarders, exemption of Polish trucks from electronic freight registration when returning to Poland, as the system does not shorten the waiting time at the border, but extends it to an average of twelve days. This also applies to empty journeys.
Freight forwarders in other neighboring countries want to block their border crossings in solidarity
In addition, freight forwarders from non-EU countries should be prohibited from opening their own company in Poland. Licenses that have already been granted to Ukrainian start-ups in Poland should be checked and, if necessary, withdrawn.
Big protests on Wednesday, including trucks from Slovakia
Since neither the European Commission in Brussels nor Poland’s government under Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has reacted so far – it is after the parliamentary elections on October 15th still in office – the freight forwarders want to extend their protest on Wednesday to the largest Polish-Ukrainian border crossing, Medyka, near Przemysl.
Freight forwarders in more Neighboring countries of Ukraine In solidarity with their Polish colleagues, they also want to block their border crossings. Slovakian freight forwarders had already paralyzed the only border crossing with Ukraine, Vyšné Nemecké, with a one-hour warning blockade on November 17th.
“Ukrainian competition is threatening our existence,” said the head of the freight forwarders’ association Unas Stanislav skala to the TASR news agency. If the EU does not withdraw the exception rule for Ukraine, Slovakian truck drivers would permanently block the border crossing, including for cars, and park their vehicles everywhere. According to skala, Hungarian freight forwarders are also considering joining the protest.