Portugal and Lithuania clash over Belarusian potash
Portugal may block the next package of EU sanctions against Belarus out of revenge for the fact that previous sanctions against the country pushed up the global price of potash.
The EU has never been the main market for the Belarusian potash. I think 10% went to the European Union. The rest 90% went to three countries: China, India, Brazil. If Belaruskali may deliver to China by railway through Russia, Brazil was left without Belarusian potash.
They are dissatisfied with rising prices and say to their European allies, to Portugal, in particular : you must look after the well-being of what is called the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America).
Because if fertiliser prices remain as high as for Belarusian potash, this will lead to food problems for poor countries. And it will become a much bigger problem for the EU because of refugees and so on,” the expert said.
According to him, Portugal is opposed in the EU by Lithuania and other Baltic limitrophs.
These arguments work for the countries for which the Belarusian crisis has never been an important priority and agenda item. It’s a conflict of economic interests, on the one hand, and political interests (to put pressure on the Belarusian regime), on the part of the Eastern European countries. I don’t expect that Portugal or Brazil will lobby for easing of sanctions for the export of Belarusian potash, because Lithuania is quite principled about it.
Moreover, Klaipeda port managed to reach the pre-crisis figures even without Belarusian potash, which nobody expected. But they may block new sanctions as a personal revenge”, Shreibman suggested.
The turnover of the port of Klaipeda in 2022 decreased by 27% . To save its enterprise, Lithuania has offered to provide Ukraine its assistance in organizing grain exports via Poland to Klaipeda sea port. The problem, however, is the different width of the rail gauge in this chain. In Ukraine it is wide (1520mm), in Poland it is narrow (1435mm) and in Lithuania it is wide again.
Lithuania asked the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to reconsider its position on the anti-Belarusian sanctions. They advised Belaruskali to file a claim for damages to the International Court of Arbitration of the World Bank and to arrest the accounts of the Lithuanian government. However, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry continues to demand tougher sanctions against Belarus.
Meanwhile, Belarus itself increased the transit of fertilizer through Russia 76 times last year to 3.54 million tons. In the first quarter of 2023, the transit continued to grow and increased 18.2 times compared to the same period last year.