Photo: Frédérick Florin Agence France-Presse Farmers' children demonstrated in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday.
Jeremy Tordjman – Agence France-Presse in Paris
The blockades of farmers increased on Wednesday in France despite the government's attempts to extinguish this movement of rural anger which is spreading in Europe and particularly targeting EU policies.< /p>
The discontent, which has also spread to Spain and Italy, is particularly strong in France where, since Monday, farmers have been blocking several highways leading to Paris with their tractors, causing a new crisis a year after the highly contested reform of the retirements.
Wednesday morning, the tractors also continued their progress to surround Lyon, the third largest city in France. Further north, a convoy of farmers from the South-West is heading towards the Rungis fresh produce market, the largest in the world, which supplies the Paris region.
European policy too complex, incomes too low, inflation, foreign competition, particularly from Ukrainian products, soaring fuel prices: the demands in France are found in most European countries facing agricultural discontent.
“We don't necessarily want to be lulled by aid, we above all want remunerative prices,” declared Johanna Trau, a cereal grower and breeder mobilized in the east of France, on one of the “100 blocking points” identified by the authorities.
- Paris evokes “fair competition” measures for farmers
- The discomfort of French farmers, “an anger that comes from far away”
Despite support measures, including the abandonment of the tax on non-road diesel and aid of 80 million euros for wine growers, the government has so far not succeeded to put out the fire and also tries to mobilize on the European front.
The Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau goes to Brussels on Wednesday to discuss “European emergencies” and Paris has decided to engage in a “showdown” with the European Commission to oppose the trade agreement currently negotiated with the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay).
This free trade treaty with important agricultural countries “is not good for our breeders and cannot, must not be signed as is”, said Wednesday the Minister of French Economy Bruno Le Maire on the CNews channel.
Paris had already loudly and clearly expressed its opposition to the conclusion of this trade agreement, causing tensions with the European Commission which is in charge of trade negotiations for the Twenty-Seven.
President Emmanuel Macron, who refuses to “blame everything on Europe” but promises to defend several demands of French farmers in Brussels, is due to meet Thursday with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on the sidelines of a European summit.
The Commission has already outlined concessions on the issue of compulsory set-aside.
The movement of anger spreads across the continent: after demonstrations in Germany, in Poland, Romania, Belgium and Italy in recent weeks, the three main Spanish agricultural unions have announced “mobilizations” across the country in the “coming weeks”.
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.
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 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 – are crystallizing anger.
France is the first beneficiary of European agricultural subsidies, with more than 9 billion euros per year, but its farmers denounce a CAP disconnected from the field.
Appointed less than a month ago, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal assured Tuesday that there must “be a French agricultural exception” and promised that the government would be “there” to respond to the crisis.
Mobilized en masse, the French police have for the moment been instructed to keep their distance. Farmers “do not enter Rungis, they do not enter Parisian airports, not in Paris. But if they ever had to do it, obviously I repeat, we would not let it happen,” however warned the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin.