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Fresh farmers' protests choke Europe

By AFP

February 21, 2024 06:07 PM


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Hundreds of tractors rolled into Madrid Wednesday for fresh protests by Spanish farmers angered by what they say is unfair competition, with similar moves taking place in France, Poland and Greece.

Spain's Union of Unions syndicate rallied farmers at the crack of dawn, demanding fair product prices and competition with non-EU importers, AFP reporters said.

"We have to protest in Madrid, because that's where everyone is," said Jose Angel Lopez, a farmer who travelled from Pancorbo, more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Madrid.

"We have to upset things a bit," he said.

Spanish farmers and livestock breeders have been protesting since February 1 for product prices to cover their production costs, and for non-EU imports to face the same regulations they do, top union representative Luis Cortes told TVE public television.

A string of measures announced last week by Spain's left-wing government did not go far enough to address the problems, Cortes said.

 

- European movement -

 

Spanish farmers are part of a wider movement that has seen roads blocked in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Greece, among other countries.

French farmers dumped produce and blocked roads Wednesday, setting a de facto deadline for the government to meet their demands before they resume wider protests.

France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has so far failed to appease the farmer's grievances, which -- as elsewhere -- include low incomes, tight environmental rules and competition from cheaper non-EU imports.

But agricultural unions last month did halt  crippling nationwide protests following promises of government reform.

In Greece, thousands of farmers demanded financial aid to end their four-week showdown, with the government saying it has no more funds to help.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the demonstration would be useful to persuade the European Union to change its agriculture policies.

"This is leverage for me as well, when I go to Brussels to negotiate," he told Star TV on Monday.

Ties between Warsaw and Kyiv continue to sour as Polish police said Wednesday they were investigating a pro-Putin banner at a farmer protest against unfair competition from neighbouring Ukraine.

Farmers in southern Poland unfurled a banner reading "Putin, get Ukraine, Brussels and our government in order" along with a Soviet flag fixed to a tractor.

Poland said Wednesday the pro-Putin slogans were "possibly" influenced by Russia.

The European Commission made several concessions in recent weeks after farmers across Europe blamed the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU's upcoming "Green Deal" for their problems.


AFP


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