Sunday, March 3, 2024

Farmers in Italy, Spain and Poland protest over European Union policies

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Farmers demonstrate outside a local government building during a protest over price pressure, taxes, green regulations and grievances shared by farmers across Europe, February 9, 2024 in Pamplona, ​​Spain. Photo: Vincent West/Reuters

MADRID (AP) – Farmers in Italy, Spain and Poland on Friday warned of rising production costs, lower profits and unfair competition from non-EU countries as part of ongoing protests against the European Union’s agricultural policies. A demonstration was held to demand countermeasures.

Similar protests have occurred across the bloc in recent weeks. Farmers complain that the 27-nation EU’s policies on the environment and other issues are costing them money, making their produce more expensive than imports from outside the EU.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has made several concessions in recent weeks, including shelving plans to halve the use of pesticides and other hazardous substances. Nevertheless, protests grew.

In Poland, where imports of cheap grain, milk and other agricultural products from Ukraine have caused particular outrage, farmers have been driving tractors across the country to reduce traffic and block major roads, with some Some held signs that read, “EU policies are ruining Polish farmers.”

Access roads to the border crossings with Ukraine in Khrebenne and Drokhask in the east were temporarily closed.

In the western city of Poznan, police estimated that around 1,400 tractors entered the roads and reached the regional governor’s office. Demonstrators lit smoke bombs there and placed a coffin symbolizing the death of Polish agriculture and a wheelbarrow full of fertilizer with an EU flag stuck on it. No acts of violence were reported.

read more: EU withdraws pesticide proposal in new concessions to protesting farmers

Deputy Prime Minister Władysław Kosinak-Kamisz and opposition leaders called on Janusz Wojciechowski, the EU commissioner for agriculture and former Polish agriculture minister, to resign. Mr Wojciechowski responded: “I am not going to act under pressure.”

Organizers the Union of Individual Farmers Solidarity said EU policies had triggered the protests.

They said storage warehouses are filling up with grain from Ukraine, causing prices to fall by 40% in 2023. Demand for sugar, milk and meat in Poland is falling, and as a result farmers are holding back on investment.

Farmers also fear that the EU’s Green Deal, which calls for limits on chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions, will lead to lower production and incomes.

In Italy, a small convoy of tractors moved across Rome’s historic center to the Colosseum on Friday morning, escorted by police patrols.

Peasants have been peacefully protesting on the outskirts of Rome and across the country for several days to express their dissatisfaction.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly said that her right-wing government is already working on some of the farmers’ key demands, but that she feels many of them are being ignored.

Meloni emphasized that the government has already allocated an additional 3 billion euros from the Italian part of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, bringing the total resources dedicated to the agricultural sector to 8 billion euros.

read more: European farmers have common grievances, but governments are competing for concessions

At a roundtable on Friday afternoon with ministers and representatives of some of the main agricultural organizations (not including representatives of the protest movement), the Italian prime minister also announced that the income tax exemption for farmers, which has been in effect since 2017, will be extended to low-income earners. It was also agreed that the extension would be limited to limited persons. breadwinner.

But many Italian farmers complain that they do not feel represented by large sector organizations and are kept out of their daily struggles.

Late on Friday, several protest representatives met separately with Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, but that still prevented a new convoy of hundreds of tractors from beginning its march on Rome’s main motorway ring road. I couldn’t.

Spanish farmers took similar actions during their fourth consecutive day of protests.

In addition to EU policies, Spanish farmers say laws aimed at ensuring wholesalers at large supermarkets pay fair prices for their products are not being enforced as consumer prices soar. claims.

Friday’s protests were centered in the northern cities of Oviedo, Pamplona and Zaragoza, with tractors clogging several city streets and commuter roads. In many places, farmers continued their protests throughout the night.

Groups not affiliated with Spain’s three main agricultural associations called on farmers to move to Madrid at midnight to join Saturday’s protest near the headquarters of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party.

Demonstrations are expected to continue in the coming weeks, with a large protest planned to be organized in the capital on February 21st.

Spanish media outlets have reported that many of the protests are linked to conservative and far-right groups.

Police said 20 people were arrested during this week’s protests.

Sicilowska reported from Warsaw, Poland, and Giada Zampano reported from Rome.

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