European Commissioner for Agriculture: "Russian Method of Expansion to Dominate Other Countries Cause Famine" Listen to this article

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski speaks during a news conference on communications in response to the European citizens' initiative 'End the Cage Age' at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on June 30, 2021.  (Photo by Francisco Seco. / pool / AFP) European citizens speak during a news conference on communication in response to the initiative 'End the Cage Age' at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on June 30, 2021.  (Photo by Francisco Seco/Pool/AFP)
European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski speaks during a news conference on communications in response to the European citizens’ initiative ‘End the Cage Age’ at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Francisco Seco. / pool / AFP) European citizens speak during a news conference on communication in response to the initiative ‘End the Cage Age’ at the EU Headquarters in Brussels on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Francisco Seco/Pool/AFP)Dry Francisco (AFP)

The European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski (Rawa Mazowicz, Poland, age 67), accused Russia of deliberately trying to subjugate Ukraine by creating famine. “This is the Russian way of expansion,” says the community leader, referring to the famine that killed millions of Ukrainians during Stalin’s Soviet era. Wojciechowski acknowledged that the allegations against Vladimir Putin’s regime are based on data provided by Kyiv authorities that could not be verified by neutral sources. “But to me it is credible information,” he says during a videoconference interview with a group of international media, including EL PAÍS.

Ask. They have ensured that food security in Europe is guaranteed despite the Russian invasion of agri-food giants like Ukraine. But what will happen, especially in Ukraine, if the war continues?

answer. In Europe, at this time, we are impressed by the heroism of the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian military. Russia would not be able to occupy Ukraine and Ukrainian agri-food production would continue. But I am Polish and I know the history of this region better than other parts of Europe. And the Russian method of expansion to dominate other nations is the cause of famine. This happened already in the 1930s with a great famine in Ukraine and a similar situation in Kazakhstan. This has been the experience of many countries. At that time lakhs of people died due to lack of food. And we have to take this situation very seriously, as the Minister of Agriculture of Ukraine and the Ambassador of Ukraine to the European Union have told us. The Russian military is attacking agricultural infrastructure and killing farmers working in the fields. We must do everything to keep them working, because Ukrainian agriculture is very important to global food security. Peasants are brave like soldiers, ready to keep working under the bombs.

Russian military is attacking agricultural infrastructure and killing farmers in the countryside

P. Are you aware of any specific incident which shows that Russia is trying to cause famine in Ukraine?

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R. I am not aware of any specific incident. The Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture and other Ukrainian officials have told me that the Russian military is attacking agricultural infrastructure, destroying chicken farms near Kherson, very serious not only for food, but also for sanitary conditions. There are results. The information is difficult to verify because there is a war, but to me it is reliable information.

P. As a Pole and an expert in the region’s history, what do you think of Ukraine’s proposal to accept a position of neutrality if Moscow ends the invasion?

R. I do not like to give advice to Ukraine given the situation. What I can say is that in my country, Poland, it is completely open to Ukrainians and has already taken over two million. And I am of the opinion that we should do everything possible to support Ukraine’s European aspirations, to make it part of the European Union. This is very important for the security of Europe. But, of course, this is a Ukrainian decision and in this specific situation we have an obligation to support the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian people.

We must do everything possible to support Ukraine’s European aspirations

P. Poland and other countries advocate that Ukraine enter the European Union as soon as possible. In that case, what would be the impact on the general agricultural policy of incorporation of a country with a large primary sector? Will this be an asset or a problem given its size?

R. Ukraine has a strong agricultural sector. But it is surprising that before the war, when trade relations were normal, I heard many complaints about trade with that country. There were those who warned that it was a great competitor to our farmers, that it was not good that we imported so many Ukrainian products. Now that imports have stopped because of the war, complaints have varied and it is believed that we need Ukrainian imports, for our production, for our production, above all, to feed our livestock farms. They need their corn, their oilseeds. It has been observed that Ukraine’s accession to the European Union will strengthen the Common Agricultural Policy. Of course, there are many political angles to such a decision to get involved. But in agriculture, the war has shown that we need to cooperate with a large food producer and exporter like Ukraine.

Ukraine’s accession to the European Union will strengthen the Common Agricultural Policy

P. Does halting imports threaten Europe’s food security?

R. The year before the war, imports from Ukraine amounted to 6 billion euros. These are significant figures, but their loss does not pose a security risk to Europe. It is necessary to say this. There is no food security risk for Europe, but there is for the Middle East and North Africa.

There is no food security risk for Europe, but there is for the Middle East and North Africa.

P. Which products are most at risk?

R. Ukraine is a major exporter of cereals, corn and oilseeds. Between Ukraine and Russia – although it is difficult to put aggressor and aggressor together – they represent 30% of world grain exports. We must maintain Ukrainian exports and prevent Russia from profiting from aggression, capturing with our products markets that Ukraine cannot reach. In the Middle East and North Africa, Ukrainian exports were very important. We do not intend for other countries to occupy that space, but to help Ukraine maintain its exports. One route would be through Poland to ports in the Baltic countries. And we also have to get our food exports to Ukraine, which a year before the war was about 2,000 million euros. The problem is how to organize this trade safely. There have been attacks in Lviv, 70 kilometers from the Polish border, for example targeting fuel supplies needed for tractors.

P. European agriculture is also suffering from rising energy prices, fertilizer…

R. We have taken steps to improve the situation. We have activated the crisis reserve with 500 million euros, which, with co-financing of states, can reach up to 1,500 million euros to support farmers affected by the crisis due to aggression against Ukraine. The rule on non-productive areas has been repealed, making it possible to apply an additional four million hectares to agriculture. State aid of up to 35,000 euros per farm will also be temporarily allowed. And an intervention in the pig sector, because its situation is really difficult.

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