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Farmer Protests in Europe Spreading in Portugal and Beginning in Ireland

Farmers protests are broadening in Portugal, protests are beginning in Ireland, and regional actions are planned by farmers in Spain, towards the end of February. Highway and port blockades continue in France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. These are not with large numbers of tractors involved, but are very efficient. The blockades of access roads to the Wilhelmshaven and Bremerhaven ports in the northwest are kept in place; there have also been blockades of inland ports along the Rhine River.

In Brussels, where farmers deployed 1,300 tractors outside the building where the European Council was meeting, numerous demands for changes in the EU agricultural policy were raised.The European Coordination Via Campesina was carrying banners against the free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, currently under negotiation. Farmers have long opposed the trade agreement with the South American economic bloc, which they consider would put them at a competitive disadvantage, opening the door to a flood of cheaper agricultural imports that do not meet the same environmental standards as EU products.

To appease the farmers’ discontent, French President Emmanuel Macron met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the sidelines of the summit on Feb. 1. He promised to take a stand against Mercosur.

Guillaume Van Binst, a member of the Federation of Young Farmers (FJA), told Euractiv that since the 1990s, EU policies have forced European farmers “to compete with other types of agriculture that have far fewer requirements, produce at lower costs and penetrate the European market.”

Demands to abolish the most aggressive plans of the EU Green Deal were also raised. “Environmental ambitions are not accompanied by sufficient budgets to reward farmers,” said Van Binst. Enrico Parisi from the Italian agriculture association Coldiretti expressed a similar view. The EU’s Green Deal requires farmers to “meet difficult targets,” while they lack the investment capacity and technology to meet them. “If we don’t meet these targets ... we will import more food.”

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