EU leaders consider ‘all available avenues’ to bypass Russian food export ban –

Sources told EURACTIV that EU leaders will consider all available ways to circumvent Russia’s food export ban on Ukraine’s ports, including a naval mission to escort cargo ships, but will not accept Russia’s demands to lift sanctions.

Throughout Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, the global supply chain has been plagued by uncertainty – particularly with regard to wheat, grains, and edible oils.

This puts food security high on the agenda of EU leaders, who will meet to discuss the Ukraine crisis in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday (May 30 and 31, respectively), with all food-related matters set on the second day.

“The European Council strongly condemns Russia’s destruction and illegal appropriation of agricultural production in Ukraine,” said the council’s latest leaked draft conclusions, seen by EURACTIV, stressing that Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine has a “direct impact on the world.” food security and affordability.”

An EU diplomat told EURACTIV ahead of the European Council that the meeting would address “the consequences of difficulties in exporting food commodities” to address “the risks of spillover in the Maghreb and the Middle East due to agricultural prices”.

The main goal is to “try to bypass the embargo on food exports caused by Russia, in particular from Odessa,” according to the source, who also added that “the European Union will do this in all available ways.”

Currently, there are 20 million tons of wheat stuck in Ukraine, which together with Russia provides up to a third of the world’s grain exports.

Ukraine normally exports five million tons of grain per month, but is currently able to export only a small part of it, between 200,000 to one million tons per month.

From ‘Solidarity Corridors’ to a special naval mission

According to the draft conclusions, EU leaders will discuss ways to facilitate food exports from Ukraine “through different land routes and EU ports”, as well as ways to accelerate work on “solidarity corridors” proposed by the Commission aimed at creating alternative logistics routes using all relevant means of transport .

However, concerns have been raised about the Solidarity Corridors, as they will rely mostly on aging Ukrainian railways, as seaports accounted for 90% of Ukraine’s exports before the war.

This makes opening major ports in Ukraine, including Odessa, a major priority for the council meeting.

Earlier this week, David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, warned that failure to open these ports would be a “declaration of war on global food security” that would lead to “famine, destabilization and mass migration around the world.” “. the scientist”.

However, EU leaders are not expected to consider the idea of ​​dropping sanctions on Russia in exchange for opening the main Ukrainian port of Odessa, as demanded by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call with Italian Mario Draghi.

Instead, there is likely to be discussion of a special naval mission for Ukrainian grain to create safe corridors for exporting grain from Ukraine’s ports.

This option was previously supported by the UK government, which is reportedly considering a plan to send warships to the Black Sea and escort shipments exporting Ukrainian grain.

Such a mission would have to be under the UN umbrella to be effectively legal under international law, and the EU is in strict contact with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to move forward with this option, EURACTIV has been informed.

For the mission to be effective, it must receive a humanitarian rather than a military mandate from the United Nations and the participating countries.

European Council President Charles Michel, who will meet with Guterres in the coming days, is expected to request the opinion of EU leaders on the possibility of setting up such a special mission.

EU leaders are expected to discuss other agri-food issues on Tuesday including ways to work with international partners to promote more efficient use and alternatives to fertilizers in light of the persistent shortage of fertilizers on the global market.

Meanwhile, the European Council is also expected to stress the importance of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to the EU’s contribution to food security and call for the rapid adoption of CAP Strategic Plans (see below for more details).

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

One of the main developments of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will run from 2023 to 2027, is the National Strategic Plans (NSPs).

Through these plans, EU countries detail how they will meet the nine EU-wide objectives of the reformed CAP process while responding to the needs of farmers and rural communities.

In other words: while the European Commission will set the overall direction for a future CAP, the “how” will be up to the national administrations this time around.

Member states had until the end of 2021 to submit their national plans to the Commission for approval, a process that is currently underway.

For more information on CAP reform, see EURACTIV coverage.

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