Farmers Across Europe Protest High Costs, Reduced Subsidies

With one eye on European elections in June, some officials have proposed relaxing environmental requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy.

French farmers protest rising production costs, free trade agreements and lower subsidies. (Photo: FNSEA via Facebook)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Feb. 5, 2024 16:32 UTC
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French farmers protest rising production costs, free trade agreements and lower subsidies. (Photo: FNSEA via Facebook)

Motorways were blocked in France, and columns of trac­tors occu­pied the cen­ter of the German cap­i­tal, Berlin, for sev­eral days. Key roads were cut off in Brussels, the heart and admin­is­tra­tive cen­ter of the European Union, as thou­sands of farm­ers protested across Europe.

High taxes, high fuel prices, delays in sub­sidy pay­ments and the effects of the Russo-Ukrainian War are at the epi­cen­ter of the farm­ers’ demon­stra­tions.

However, accord­ing to Arnaud Rousseau, head of the French FNSEA farm­ers’ union, over­reg­u­la­tion and the incom­pre­hen­si­ble” E.U. poli­cies on farm­ing are the under­ly­ing cause of the farm­ers’ protests.

See Also:E.U. Chief Promises Strategic Dialogue with Farmers

Rousseau also asserted that the bloc’s Farm to Fork strat­egy for food sus­tain­abil­ity hin­ders European agri­cul­tural eco­nomic growth by heav­ily bur­den­ing its farm­ers.

In the wake of the farm­ers’ demon­stra­tions in France, the most sig­nif­i­cant agri­cul­tural pro­ducer in the E.U., Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, said that the coun­try will seek exemp­tion from some rules of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to suit the needs of its farm­ers bet­ter.

In addi­tion, French President Emmanuel Macron ques­tioned the bloc’s free-trade agree­ment with the Mercosur group of coun­tries, claim­ing that the imported food prod­ucts from the South American coun­tries would fall short of the European food pro­duc­tion and envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards.

Macron, nonethe­less, sup­ported the E.U. poli­cies on agri­cul­ture, stat­ing that they are not the rea­son for farm­ers’ prob­lems.

In Germany, the phas­ing out of a tax reduc­tion in agri­cul­tural diesel fuel sparked demon­stra­tions by farm­ers, who claimed that it could lead them to bank­ruptcy and asked the gov­ern­ment for finan­cial back­ing.

However, the country’s finance min­is­ter, Christian Lindner, dis­missed their request, cit­ing lim­i­ta­tions in the country’s bud­get.

In Romania, farm­ers have been protest­ing the ele­vated fuel costs, high insur­ance rates and cheap agri­cul­tural imports from Ukraine.

Polish farm­ers also demon­strated against com­pe­ti­tion from Ukraine, argu­ing that Europe should refrain from import­ing agri­cul­tural prod­ucts from the war-torn east­ern European coun­try.

See Also:Farms Facing Natural Constraints Play Key Role in European Agriculture

Ukrainian grain should go where it belongs, to the Asian or African mar­kets, not to Europe,” said Adrian Wawrzyniak, a Polish farm­ers’ trade union spokesper­son.

Protests are also spread­ing to south­ern Europe, with farm­ers in Greece set­ting up the first block­ades on sig­nif­i­cant high­ways and their coun­ter­parts in Spain prepar­ing to voice their dis­con­tent about high pro­duc­tion costs and tight envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

To appease protest­ing farm­ers across the E.U., the com­mis­sion has pro­posed low­er­ing the green farm­ing require­ments con­tained in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) while keep­ing the pay­ments to farm­ers unchanged.

By tak­ing this sta­bi­liz­ing action, we can help alle­vi­ate the pres­sure that we know our farm­ers are feel­ing to ensure that they can stay eco­nom­i­cally viable dur­ing these times of high uncer­tainty,” said com­mis­sion exec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent Maroš Šefčovič.

The farm­ers’ demon­stra­tions have come just months before the European Parliament elec­tions in June, fuel­ing con­cern among polit­i­cal lead­ers who fear that Europe’s far-right par­ties will receive sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from the frus­trated farm­ers across the con­ti­nent.

While not on the agenda, farm­ers’ protests were expected to be dis­cussed off-the-record at the European Union lead­ers’ sum­mit in Brussels on February 1st.



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