In Europe, farmers’ anger is growing, with Spain the latest country to join the protests.
Farmers’ anger is growing across Europe. Spanish farmers are the latest to join protests in countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Romania and Poland.
Spanish farmers are calling for a halt to the EU’s ongoing negotiations on deals such as the Mercosur agreement, as well as negotiations with countries such as Chile, Kenya, Mexico and Australia.
They claim that products imported from outside the region “do not comply with the internal rules of the European Union (EU)”.
Biggest challenge for newly elected French PM
Despite promises from the French government, farmers continue their blockade after 10 days of protests.
New aid measures announced by France’s new prime minister Gabriel Attal have not convinced them. They have maintained their blockades and are moving closer to Paris, where French police have been deployed to contain the tractors.
Attal showered angry farmers with promises of help on Tuesday, from emergency cash aid to controls on imported food, hoping to cool a protest movement that has seen tractors block highways across France and inspired similar actions across Europe.
Farmers demanding better pay, fewer restrictions and lower costs are camped out on hay-strewn motorways and are encircling Paris, posing the biggest challenge to the new prime minister since he took office less than a month ago.
In a wide-ranging policy speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Attal sought to allay their concerns.
“We must listen to farmers who are working and worried about their future and their livelihood,” he said.
“The aim is clear: to guarantee fair competition, in particular so that the rules applied to [French] farmers are also respected by foreign products,” he said. Protection from cheap imports is one of the protesters’ main demands.
Attal promised emergency aid to struggling wine producers and quick payment of EU subsidies to others. He also said food retailers who don’t comply with a law designed to ensure a fair share of revenue for farmers will be fined, starting immediately.
However, French farmers remain sceptical and say they want action, not promises.
French protests hit Spanish farmers
The crisis in the French countryside is shaking up Spanish farmers who have been victims of vandalism and report losses.
Around 22,000 lorries enter France every day. Motorway blockades are hurting Spanish and Portuguese farmers, delaying the export of goods – including fruit, vegetables, meat, olive oil and wine – to the north.
Spanish truckers have witnessed French protesters emptying entire lorries to show their disagreement with policies they say discriminate against them compared to Spanish or Italian farmers.
Losses amount to more than €12 million a day, according to the Spanish transport employers’ association.
Spain’s Agriculture Minister Luis Planas has rejected suggestions that Spanish farmers have an unfair advantage over their neighbours.
Belgian farmers block motorways as protests continue
Belgian farmers continued to block roads on Tuesday, including the main E19 motorway to Brussels. They said they plan to stay on the road until the government meets their demands.
“We won’t leave until we get political clarity,” said Judy Peeters.
They are protesting for better wages, fewer restrictions and lower costs.
Protests in five regions of Italy
Italian farmers have called for demonstrations that will affect five regions of the country to protest against what they consider to be detrimental European agricultural policies. These protests follow several spontaneous rallies in recent days.
Farmers protested with their tractors near Rome for the third day in a row on Tuesday to demand the defence of the country’s agricultural sector.
The mobilisation is being organised by a mainly youth-led movement called Agrarian Rescue, which has staged a series of protests over the past week, occasionally blocking roads.
“We demand a fair value for our products. We want Italian agriculture to be respected, understood and appreciated,” they said.