Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP Agence France-Presse Belgian and Dutch farmers block the Arendonk border crossing, which separates the two countries, on Friday.
Jeremy Tordjman – Agence France-Presse in Paris
A decline, not the epilogue: farmers in France, epicenter of the revolt of the peasant world in Europe, begin to lift their blockades on Friday, after the measures announced the day before in Paris and Brussels, but some on the continent continue the movement.
Mobilized en masse since Monday, French farmers who blocked sections of highways around Paris are gradually breaking camp at the call of the two main unions in the sector who spoke of the “expected progress at national and European level”.
In an attempt to extinguish the anger that was gaining ground on the continent, the European Commission on Thursday promised measures to defend the “legitimate interests” of EU farmers, “by guaranteeing conditions of fair competition” or by reducing the “administrative burden” of the much-maligned Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The French government, for its part, has promised since Monday a total package of 400 million euros to its farmers and announced the “pause” of a pesticide reduction plan, largely Damage to environmentalists.
“The most visible moment of the crisis […] is rather behind us,” assured French Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau on Friday morning. However, certain isolated groups intend to maintain their actions.
European policy too complex, incomes too low, inflation, foreign competition, accumulation of standards, soaring fuel prices: the demands expressed in France are found elsewhere in Europe, from Germany to Poland, via Italy, with the common target of the agricultural policy carried out in Brussels.
- Farmers' unions call for an end to blockades in France
- A hundred farmers arrested in France, the EU lets go
- The discomfort of French farmers, “an anger that comes from far away”
To make their grievances heard, thousands of demonstrators from several countries and some 1,200 tractors invaded the streets of the Belgian capital on Thursday. “This is not the Europe we want,” the demonstrators chanted.
Farmers have their sights set on the free trade agreement that the Commission is currently negotiating with the South American Mercosur countries, including the agricultural powers Brazil and Argentina.
This treaty will not be “concluded in a hurry as some threatened to do”, certified French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, who also announced that the EU would establish controls on imports of Ukrainian cereals to avoid distortions of competition.
Warning from the IMF
However, it is not certain that the farmers mobilized elsewhere in Europe will immediately stop their movement.
In Italy, calls are circulating to convince farmers to converge on Rome and an action is planned for Saturday north of the capital.
In Sicily, several of them intended to block traffic on Friday morning in the town of Ragusa where a convoy of tractors paraded to the sound of horns and brandishing a sign asking “Sai cosa mangi” ? » (“Do you know what you’re eating ?”). “We have to act because they are not listening to our problems,” one of the farmers said on a local channel.
In Sardinia, farmers and breeders continue to blockade the port of Cagliari and intend to continue their action until Monday, according to local media.
On Thursday, the mobilization extended to Portugal where hundreds of farmers blocked roads, including two crossings at the border with Spain, in order to demand “enhancement of their activity”.
In Greece, 300 tractors and dozens of beekeepers' trucks, honking their horns and displaying black and white flags, stopped in front of the municipal center of Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, to cries of : “Farmers, they drink your blood.”
Faced with this movement, the Commission had already made concessions at the start of the week by proposing to grant for 2024 a “partial” exemption from the set-aside obligations imposed by the CAP.
After the burst of announcements, particularly in France, the International Monetary Fund, guardian of budgetary orthodoxy, was concerned about the cost of government aid and its impact on public finances.
IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva assured that she “understands, from a human point of view, (that farmers) face more difficulties” but issued a warning: “If this places corners governments and prevents them from doing what is necessary to strengthen economies, there may come a time when we might regret it.”