French highways stay blocked as farmer protests continue

Europe
Wed, 31 Jan 2024 7:16 GMT
Premier's new measures fail to satisfy most farmers, French president to discuss sector's situation with head of EU Commission Thursday.
French highways stay blocked as farmer protests continue

Farmers continued blocking the highways around France's capital on Tuesday to protest the government's agricultural policies and EU regulations, local media reported. 

Unsatisfied with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal's announcement last Friday to drop an agricultural fuel tax hike, most farmers chose to expand the nationwide protests, while other groups ended them.

Farmers on nearly 800 tractors began arriving to block the eight highways around Paris that were targeted on Monday afternoon, according to the daily Le Figaro.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau, who vowed on Monday to announce new measures within 48 hours, will go to Brussels on Wednesday to evaluate the situation, the same source said.

President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Thursday in Brussels, also to discuss the situation of the agricultural sector.

Last Friday, Premier Attal dropped the government's plans to progressively increase the tax on agricultural fuels by €0.03 ($0.03) per year until 2030.

He also vowed to drastically simplify administrative procedures and promised to distribute aid for financial emergencies quickly.

The country's Egalim law, which aims to protect farmers' income in negotiations with industry and supermarkets, was another point of contention for the protesting farmers.

Attal promised to ensure that the law is respected, to exert maximum pressure in commercial negotiations, and to heavily sanction enterprises that refuse to comply.

Attal's statements divided the farmers, who demand better wages, simplified administration, no new bans on pesticides, an end to tractor fuel price hikes, and better compensation after disasters.

They are also contesting the rising pressure of EU regulations, as well as a possible free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, the South American regional alliance.

The protests began two weeks ago as demonstrators blocked highways in southwestern France.

Other European countries, including Germany, Belgium, and Romania, have been jolted in recent weeks by protests from farmers who have criticized EU regulations, including the bloc's Green Deal initiative and its Common Agricultural Policy.

The EU's Green Deal program, announced in 2019, aims to achieve climate neutrality and zero carbon emissions in the EU by 2050.

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