Commissioner Adina Vălean

 

AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES COUNCIL

Date 24/05/2022

Council of the EU, Justus Lipsius (JL 50.1)

Bruxelles

 

Speaking points

  1. Solidarity Lanes Communication
  • I would like to thank the Presidency for the opportunity to inform you today about the Implementation of the Solidarity Lanes Communication, two weeks after its adoption by the Commission.
  • The Commission has set out an action plan to establish ‘Solidarity Lanes' to support Ukraine in their agricultural exports, but also imports of the goods it needs, from humanitarian aid to animal feed and fertilisers.
  • A few figures to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge:
    • 20-25 million tonnes of grains must leave Ukraine in less than 3 months. Some additional 50 million tonnes of grains are expected with the next harvest – yet there is only space to accommodate 50% of this quantity.
    • Freeing storage capacity is therefore the immediate priority, and one which will become even more urgent as the days pass by, and the harvest starts – in Ukraine but also in the EU.
    • Before the war Ukraine exported up to 5 million tonnes of grain per month via Black Sea ports. This now has to be redirected towards rail and road and inland waterways, onwards towards EU ports for further exportation to world markets. In April, Ukraine exported only 1.2 million tonnes of grain. The goal is to reach a minimum of 3 million tonnes of exports per month, and ideally 4 million tonnes. Only will we then be able to secure enough space for the next harvest.
  • The Solidarity Lanes Communication identifies key bottlenecks, that go well beyond transport. We are speaking of administrative red tape, lack of transport and transhipment capacity, as well as lack of storage in Ukraine and also in the EU.
  • The Communication puts forward 20 actions:
    • Short-term actions - what is necessary now to enable Ukrainian exports in terms of necessary equipment, capacity, border procedures and additional storage.
    • Medium- and long-term deal with increasing connectivity and the capacity further, also with a view to the reconstruction of Ukraine.

 

  1. The Implementation of the Action Plan
  • Since the adoption of the Action Plan on 12 May, the Commission has taken urgent contact with Member States, the Ukrainian authorities and stakeholders to identify the right interlocutors, and refine the picture, by establishing facts and filling information gaps in a moving situation on the ground.
  • As a first step, the Commission has called on each Member State to identify a dedicated Solidarity Lanes contact point. Many have already done so. I would like to encourage the ones who still need to designate a contact point to do it without further delay.
  • The contact points will act as a one-stop-shop for requests regarding their respective country. They will be responsible for liaising with domestic chain actors and ensuring the quick resolution of all logistical issues under the control of their respective authorities. They need to be empowered accordingly.
  • They will play an important role in the implementation of many of the short-term actions, in particular regarding the provision of up-to-date information on the situation at borders and at key points of transport infrastructure as well as in the identification of available storage capacity for agricultural goods in the EU.
  • The Commission has also reached out to the industry. Last Thursday, we convened a large meeting, with +300 participants from the land and waterborne transport sectors, as well as the agricultural sector, where we learnt more about the key problems for the industry and explored possible solutions to address these.
  • Following from these exchanges, we convened yesterday the first “Plenary” meeting of our matchmaking logistics platform, bringing all parties around the table. We had more than 250 participants including the national Solidarity Lanes contact points, the Ukrainian authorities and the EU and Ukrainian market players.
  • Ukrainian authorities have welcomed our work and expressed readiness to actively participate in the further implementation of the Action plan.
  • I am very grateful to the Member States and the EU industry stakeholders for their readiness to support us throughout this challenging process.
  • However the burden of national veterinary/phytosanitary requirements persists in frontline member states and should be alleviated without delay. This issue has been raised yesterday by various stakeholders who were giving quite shocking examples of entire convoys being delayed for 4 days or sometimes even 10 days for one missing certificate for types of cargo where such certificates were not even required at the destination. I had also repeatedly asked for such checks to be made at the destination and not at the already suffocated border crossings.
  • Therefore I reiterate my plea to make such checks and requirements as lean as possible especially when the EU legislation does not foresee them. This is in particular crucial for the goods in transit.
  • We need even stronger national involvement in order to reduce some of the bottlenecks we are experiencing at the moment.
  • We are working around the clock on resolving the capacity issues. At the same time, we simply cannot be in a situation where border procedures are blocking the flow of goods.
  • I would like to use this opportunity, to appeal to you, Ministers, to ensure an even stronger engagement and horizontal cooperation of your administrations in this common endeavour. My services stand ready to support you in establishing national task-force mechanisms to coordinate among different responsible authorities. I recommend this approach to all front-line member States.
  1. Identified solutions for rerouting UA exports
  • Now that the Platform has been kicked-off, work is focusing on identifying the potential alternative transport routes and how best to facilitate traffic along those.
  • For each of those alternative transport routes, my services are focusing on tackling the following issues in the short-term:
    • Streamlining procedures at border crossing points – this includes encouraging Member States to provide adequate staffing 24/7, getting rid of unnecessary checks and procedures (in particular veterinary certificates), encouraging prioritisation of UA exports to avoid the blockages on the borders. This is absolute priority as it can be immediately put in place.
    • Reducing the shortage of rolling stock, vessels and lorries – this includes the possible set-up of short-distance shuttle services between rail and ports, to shorten train journeys. This would also entail the cooperation of national rail cargo operators who could lend locomotives, wagons and containers to front line MS or to MD and UA in order to enhance rail cargo capacity.
    • Enhancing the capacity of the transport network – this could include the monitoring of the transport network, including ports, and identifying the key transhipment centres. Targeted, urgent capacity enhancements in rail terminals in front-line member states should be identified without delay and communicated to the Commission.
  • In parallel, we need to identify which storage places in the EU are ready to take up Ukrainian grains.
  • This will help us ensure that a buffer is created, and could even make these alternative transport routes more effective, for instance if we find storage places available near the Danube ports or next to stations along broad gauge lines.
  • The Commission services are conducting this mapping exercise, working with Member States authorities as well as storage organisations. I very much call on your cooperation.

 

  1. Conclusions
  • To conclude this short overview, I would like to convey three messages:
    • EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes are not only the expression of EU solidarity. They aim at salvaging a crucial sector of the Ukrainian economy, and generally improving the country's resilience. Solidarity Lanes and the medium and long term actions outlined in the Communication also aim at anchoring Ukraine closer to the EU, integrating it in the trans-European transport network and facilitating its integration into world markets.
    • The Solidarity Lanes are also a key contribution to the EU's direct response to the consequences of the Russia's invasion of Ukraine on global food security and, de facto, to Russia's disinformation campaign on this subject. The EU takes its responsibility towards Ukraine and towards the rest of the world, and condemns any attempts by the Russian Federation to confiscate the agricultural production of UA.
    • Our like-minded international partners (US, UK, CA) have welcomed the EU initiative, believe it is essential and are willing to contribute. We are also working closely with them.

We need to act jointly, and swiftly mobilising our resources, the EU can deliver under time pressure.