Unlock Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, editor-in-chief of the FT, selects her favorite stories in this weekly newsletter.
French farmers have pledged to blockade Paris and continue nationwide protests despite concessions offered by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, such as scrapping an unpopular diesel tax increase.
“We have made the decision to continue the movement,” Arnaud Rousseau, president of the FNSEA, France’s largest agricultural union, told the TF1 news channel. He added that the Prime Minister had not done enough to calm farmers’ anger. “The government must go further,” he said.
Protests in France, the EU’s biggest agricultural producer and a major recipient of subsidies from the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy, have blocked highways and targeted government buildings. They follow similar protests in Germany, Italy, Poland and Romania in recent weeks.
Farmers have expressed anger over falling incomes, rising costs and tough regulations, including the EU’s farm-to-fork strategy, which aims to reduce the use of pesticides and impose new rules taking into account climate change and biodiversity in agricultural practices.
Weeklong protests in France attracted more than 70,000 people on Friday, unions said, with thousands of tractors forming long convoys and snarling traffic on highways from Toulouse to Lille.
It is the first big test for Attal, who at 34 became the country’s youngest prime minister earlier this month, after a tumultuous period marked by parliamentary battles over immigration and pension reform. A loyalist chosen by President Emmanuel Macron for his media skills and his ability to counter political opponents, Attal now seeks to defuse the peasant uprising despite his little experience of rural issues.
The farmers enjoy great popularity in France, with polls showing 89 percent of the public support their protest. The far right, led by Marine Le Pen, is trying to exploit farmers’ anger ahead of June’s European parliamentary elections.
On Friday, Attal visited a farm in Montastruc-de-Salies, southwest France, to announce policy changes, including faster payment of emergency funds, removal of red tape and cracking down on food businesses and retailers who do not follow laws on fair negotiation of prices paid. to farmers.
Dressed in a black suit and tie with his speech notes on a haystack, Attal vowed to “put agriculture above all else” and added: “Without our farmers, we are no longer France, and we will not we are no longer a country. »
Attal also reiterated Macron’s previous opposition to the Mercosur trade deal being negotiated between the EU and South American countries, which farmers say would lead to unfair competition because producers of this country are not held to the same environmental standards or the same pesticide bans.
Paris also signaled on Saturday that more would be done for farmers, with Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau telling the France Info channel that “additional measures would be taken”, such as support for winegrowers.
Some blockades were lifted on Saturday, including the first major one near Toulouse, but others were still in place.
Pierrick Horel, leader of the Young Farmers union, said a dozen barricades that farmers had erected on roads leading to Paris would be removed on Saturday to allow the union to regroup and prepare for a broader blockade of the capital city.
“The idea is that there are no trucks capable of supplying the capital. . . so shortages can be felt,” said He was burning on BFMTV. “We must make Parisians understand that they need farmers to live and that the capital is not self-sufficient, which the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten.”