Tens of thousands of farmers across Europe protest against EU policies, rising costs, and the impact of the war in Ukraine
In an unprecedented show of solidarity, farmers across Europe have taken to the streets to voice their anger and frustration. Already grappling with the cost of living crisis, farmers are now facing additional challenges, from the European Union’s sustainability policies to the effects of the war in Ukraine. The protests have caused widespread disruption, with motorways blocked and demonstrations spiraling across multiple countries. This article delves into the reasons behind the farmers’ anger, the impact of EU policies, and the ripple effect of the war in Ukraine.
A Fight for Survival
Farmers in France have blocked motorways, creating a crisis for the new Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal. Their concerns range from burgeoning bureaucracy to the increasing cost of farm diesel and late payment of EU subsidies. Many farmers see this as a fight for their survival and are determined to continue their protests. Tragically, a young farmer and her daughter lost their lives in a car crash at a farmers’ roadblock, highlighting the high stakes involved.
Discontent with EU Policies
Discontent with EU policies has been a long-standing issue for the agricultural sector. The EU’s revamp of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been met with suspicion by farmers, who argue that the measures aimed at making agriculture more sustainable will make European farmers less competitive against imports. The obligation to devote a percentage of arable land to non-productive features and the reduction of fertilizer use have raised concerns about the sector’s viability.
The Impact of the War in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on European farmers. The EU temporarily lifted restrictions on imports from Ukraine to support the country during the conflict. However, this flooded European markets with Ukrainian agricultural produce, leading to a decrease in prices and making it difficult for local farmers to sell their crops. The disparity in farm sizes between Ukraine and European countries further exacerbates the issue.
Eastern European Demands for Trade Revisions
Eastern European countries, such as Romania and Poland, have been particularly affected by the influx of Ukrainian agricultural imports. Farmers and hauliers in these countries have been protesting against the high price of diesel, insurance rates, EU measures, and competition from Ukraine. They argue that the EU’s acceptance of cheap Ukrainian goods is detrimental to their own livelihoods and demand a revision of trade liberalization measures.
Southern Europe and Climate Change
While Southern Europe has not experienced the same level of protests as other regions, Italian and Spanish farmers may soon join the movement. These farmers face challenges from climate change, with the Spanish and Portuguese governments considering emergency water usage restrictions due to intense drought. In Sicily, farmers have already blocked roads to protest the regional government’s failure to compensate them for the impact of a heatwave and drought.
The protests by Europe’s farmers highlight their fight for survival in the face of multiple challenges. From discontent with EU policies to the impact of the war in Ukraine, farmers are united in their determination to protect their livelihoods. As European elections approach, Eurosceptic parties are finding a voice among the farmers’ protests. The EU has taken note of the growing division and has initiated a strategic dialogue between agriculture groups and decision-makers. The outcome of these protests will have far-reaching implications for the future of European agriculture.