Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff Agence France-Presse French farmers block the A15 motorway near Argenteuil, northwest of Paris, on Tuesday.
Myriam Lemetayer – Agence France-Presse in Paris
French farmers continued Tuesday to block strategic routes around Paris and elsewhere in the country, increasing pressure on the government, while their Spanish counterparts announced they were joining the European movement.
The situation became a little tense in the middle of the day with the intervention of the police trying to prevent the advance of a convoy of farmers towards the Rungis market in the center-west of France, the largest in the world, south of Paris.
This convoy of 200 tractors leaving Agen continues, at the call of a minority union, the Rural Coordination, to advance towards the food hub of the Paris region, protected by armored gendarmerie at the request of the government. The powerful agricultural union FNSEA, in the majority, dissociated itself from this action.
Demanding, as elsewhere in Europe, better incomes and, for some, fewer environmental standards, since Monday, French farmers have blocked eight highways around the capital with their tractors, under the surveillance of security forces. order mobilized en masse.
Despite union threats, the announced “siege” of Paris has so far not taken place, and the Ile-de-France airports have not been blocked.
- The discomfort of French farmers, “an anger that comes from far away”
- The anger of French farmers spreads on the roads
- Demonstrations across rural Europe
In total, more than a quarter of French departments (30) were affected by this European agricultural movement, which had already reached Germany in December and January but also Romania, Poland and even Belgium.
In Spain, the three main agricultural unions announced on Tuesday that they were joining the movement, with a series of “mobilizations” across the country over the “coming weeks” to denounce European regulations.
Impromptu demonstrations have also taken place in recent weeks in Italy, where dozens of farmers calling themselves “betrayed by Europe” protested with their tractors near Milan on Tuesday.
Extreme climatic episodes, avian flu, soaring fuel prices or an influx of Ukrainian products exempt from customs duties, there is no shortage of common factors of discontent in Europe.
The Greek government, also faced with growing protests from the agricultural world, promised Tuesday to accelerate the payment of financial aid to farmers who were victims of serious floods last year.
The new European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has strengthened environmental obligations since 2023, and the legislation of the European Green Deal (or “Green Deal”) – even if they are not yet in force – particularly crystallize anger.
As such, the European Commission announced on Tuesday that it was considering adopting a new derogation from the rules on fallows provided for by the CAP, which require keeping 4% fallow or non-productive areas.
In France, the agricultural movement threatens to degenerate into a new social crisis a year after the vast mobilization against raising the retirement age.
On the defensive, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, appointed less than a month ago, announced several measures on Friday, including the abandonment of the increase in the tax on non-road diesel, without however convincing the majority unions that he received it Monday at the end of the day.
“New measures” will be taken on Tuesday in favor of farmers, assured the government spokesperson.
This new social storm should figure prominently in the general policy speech that Mr. Attal delivered in the afternoon before Parliament to unveil the main lines of his action.
President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke at the beginning of the afternoon at a press conference in Sweden, affirmed that he wanted to “regulate” at the European level imports of poultry from Ukraine, criticized by farmers, while warning that “it would be easy to blame everything on Europe”.
The Head of State will meet Thursday with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, notably on the arrival of Ukrainian products in the Union and the freezing of the controversial trade agreement that Brussels negotiates with Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).
France may well be the first beneficiary of European agricultural subsidies with more than nine billion euros per year, but its farmers denounce a CAP which they believe is disconnected from the field.
“France is one of the only major agricultural countries whose market shares are declining,” pointed out a French senatorial report in September 2022. In twenty years, it has gone from second to sixth in the world for its exports – and to third in Europe , after the Netherlands and Germany.
More generally, European farmers denounce unfair competition at the agricultural level, in particular because imported products are generally not subject to the same regulations as in the EU.
The number of farms in France has also been divided by four in 50 years: from 1.5 million in 1970, there are now less than 400,000.