Poland moves to guarantee Ukraine arms deliveries

‘Different organisational regime’ on border crossings will provide ‘100% guarantee’ aid will reach Ukraine without delays, says Polish prime minister

Warsaw has reclassified as critical infrastructure its border crossings to Ukraine, responding to Kyiv concerns that Polish farmers’ protests against grain imports are hindering eastward exports of humanitarian aid and arms.

The move came a day after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticised the months-long blockades motivated by grain imports which Polish farmers say have driven down prices.

On Thursday Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said a “different organisational regime” on border crossings and approach roads would provide a “100 per cent guarantee that military and humanitarian aid will reach the Ukrainian side without any delays”.

“It is very important that the Ukrainian side and our allies know that the Polish state is enforcing everything that needs to be done on this issue,” said Mr Tusk at a press conference.


The decision was attacked by Poland’s main opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party as a “forcible blockade of the farmers’ protests”.

Before it lost power last year, PiS politicians – mindful of their rural voter base – pivoted away from strong Polish military and humanitarian support for Ukraine to a more hostile tone during elections.

Now the pro-EU Tusk administration, in office since December, is attempting to reverse this while separating the thorny agriculture protest from Poland’s new geopolitical role as a crossroads in western support for Ukraine.

Without going into detail, Mr Tusk promised farmers “protective solutions” to their concerns, drawing on national resources as well as further talks with Ukraine and European institutions.

As farmer protests have flared up again in recent weeks, Polish security services have noted pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian signs and banners in demonstrations.

Earlier this week a tractor in southern Poland was photographed with a Soviet Union flag with a banner reading: “Putin, put things in order with Ukraine, Brussels and our rulers.”

Amid speculation that protests have been infiltrated by Russian intelligence, Mr Tusk promised to crack down on “high treason” from those who “openly and shamelessly support Putin, serve Russian propaganda and discredit the Polish state”.

As tensions grow on its eastern border with Ukraine, Mr Tusk will on Friday host European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to announce an end to an eight-year war of words with Brussels that has cost Poland billions in EU funding.

The Polish leader told the Sejm parliament Ms von der Leyen would “announce that Poland has finally had its national recovery plan funds unblocked”.

The €750 billion pandemic-era fund allocated Poland €23.9 billion in grants and €34.2 billion in loans. Brussels withheld most of the allocation because of its unresolved so-called article-seven procedure against Poland.

Launched in 2017, the European Commission said the PiS administration’s judicial reforms – sidelining some judges and appointing others with, critics said, pro-government sympathies – represented “a clear risk of a serious breach” of the rule of law, human rights and press freedom in Poland.

Several rounds of talks with PiS failed to resolve the issue, with government officials arguing consistently that reforms were aimed at eliminating post-communist elites and that Brussels’ concern was politically motivated.

On Thursday, Poland’s new justice minister Adam Bodnar presented an action plan to reduce political influence on a national judiciary appointments body and to strip his own role of the prosecutor general title, as taken on by his predecessor.

Critics say this union created huge political influence on which cases were pursued and which cases dropped in Polish courts.

“This is the action plan they’ve been calling for over many years,” said Mr Bodnar, without explaining how his reforms will get past PiS appointees in the constitutional court and presidential palace.

European Commission vice-president Vera Jourová, responsible for democracy and rule of law issues, welcomed the proposals as the first “comprehensive plan” to address Brussels’ concerns.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin