Ukraine and EU extend permit-free regime for freight, PM says

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken visits Kyiv

(Reuters) - Ukraine and the European Commission have extended a freight liberalisation agreement, allowing Ukrainian cargo permit-free entry to the EU for another year, Ukraine's prime minister said on Thursday.

Denys Shmyhal said on X that the agreement envisaged the possibility of an automatic extension until the end of 2025.

"This is an important step towards integrating #Ukraine into the EU area, increasing Ukrainian exports and European imports, strengthening the economy and stability," Shmyhal said on X social platform.

Ukraine and the European Union signed a free regime agreement on June 29, 2022 and have renewed the agreement every year.

The agreement cancels the requirement for Ukrainian carriers to obtain relevant permits for bilateral and transit transport to the EU and avoids stopping the export of Ukrainian products through road checkpoints.

The regime was critical in a situation where Ukrainian Black Sea ports, key to imports and exports, were blocked after the Russian invasion in February 2022.

However, the sharp increase in traffic across Ukraine's borders with the EU has caused protests from hauliers in neighbouring countries.

Thousands of lorries carrying goods had been idle for weeks at Poland's border crossings with Ukraine because of protests that began last November and continued intermittently for several months.

The protesters wanted to end Ukrainian truckers' permit-free access to the EU, saying Ukrainian drivers are undercutting their prices.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Christina Fincher)