N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The EU countryside is on fire. Farmers protests from Poland to Spain expose the concrete rot of the EU agricultural policy. The growing protest by the farmer is reaching a boiling point!
Grim protests started the year in Germany, with thousands of farmers blocking roads across the country. Furious Polish, Hungarian and Slovak farmers take up post at the border with Ukraine. Last week, columns of tractors crossed the frozen landscape in Lithuania and Romania. Spanish and Italian farmers paralysed large cities. Their Belgian colleagues are blocking busy highways. The most violent clashes took place in France, blockades caused fatal accidents and a group of wine producers set off a bomb in front of a government building.
At first glance, the protests appear to have little in common. For French farmers Mercosur, the EU free trade agreement with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, is a source of contention. Polish, Hungarian and Slovak farmers want to stop cheap import of Ukrainian grain. Belgian and Dutch livestock farmers are defending themselves against the nitrogen policy. In Ireland, the protest crystallises around the measures to limit livestock numbers.
It is no coincidence that the entire EU countryside is on fire. Many of the apparently diverse frustrations are a result of unilaterally implementing green measures, that hurt the farmers. The rules, probably well-intentioned, are imposed paternalistically.
EU institutions as Commission and Parliament, never looked back seriously to see if the farmers were on board. ‘They have talked to NGO’s, over our heads, but never with us!’, said an angry agricultural representative in Brussels. ‘That has to change…’.