EU Watches Idly As Poland and Slovakia Fail To Unblock Road Traffic With Ukraine 

Democratic Security Outlook 2023: 27 November -  3 December

27 November 2023

The European Commission held technical rather than high-level talks with Poland and Slovakia over their failure to keep the EU’s external border with Ukraine open to road transport. Illegal blockages by small groups of Polish and Slovak truckers demanding curbs on their Ukrainian counterparts have caused miles-long queues on the borders, with drivers from all over Europe waiting up to five days to cross.

Upcoming on Visegrad Insight:

  • Volodymyr Yermolenko posits how a perversion of Marxism still drives Russia’s economy
  • Grigorij Mesežnikov outlines how the new Fico government is making broad, systemic changes which will affect the rule of law and the state of the Slovak democracy.

EU/REGIONAL

  • The European Commission “remains in contact” with Warsaw and Kyiv over the traffic jam on the EU’s external borders with Ukraine, which has hampered trade, hurt businesses and made drivers from all over Europe wait five days to cross.
  • A Commission spokesman said talks on how to address the blockade of the border by Polish truckers, who Slovak drivers now join, were not at the “political level”.
  • The border crisis illustrates the risk that Ukraine’s key CEE neighbours may become obstacles to its EU membership. The once-staunchly pro-Ukrainian nationalist government in Poland has adopted Ukraine-scepticism of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Slovakia’s new PM Robert Fico, sometimes repeating Russian narratives about the alleged economic burden of accepting Ukraine.
  • Nationalist, pro-Russian and anti-EU parties in both countries have encouraged the truckers’ protests. Complicating matters, Poland is stuck in a power vacuum because the ruling Law and Justice Party is delaying the transition of power to the opposition after losing elections on 15 October.
  • The surprise tilt towards the EU-sceptic hard-right Freedom Party in the Dutch election raised fears of a further backlash against enlargement in next year’s European parliament elections, with illiberal, anti-EU leaders from Marie Le Pen to Orbán rushing to congratulate FP leader Geert Wilders.
  • The four Visegrad presidents met for their annual meeting on 22 November in Prague. While they all nominally expressed support for Ukraine, the way the leaders envisage that support varies greatly, with Hungary still threatening to veto the EU’s aid package and refusing to provide weapons and ammunition to Kyiv.
  • EU Council President Charles Michel is travelling to Budapest on Monday to try to persuade Orbán to stop blocking new funds for Ukraine and approve opening membership talks at the December EU summit. Orbán said last week the EU needed to reassess support for Ukraine, signalling readiness to use his veto at the summit.
  • Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are due to take part in the COP28 conference in Dubai on 1-2 December amid increasing backlash from hard-right movements around the globe against climate change policies. In the US, Donald Trump is vowing to reverse President Joe Biden’s green policies and increase fossil fuel drilling.
  • The European Parliament narrowly adopted an ambitious (and contentious) blueprint for a deep reform of the EU, with many MEPs absent from the vote. The proposal will now go before the heads of government at the December summit, which is shaping up as a showdown over enlargement and internal EU reforms.
  • Industrial output in main CEE economies has been in negative territory for the past three quarters, with Bulgaria, Romania and Czechia hit hardest.

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