Powerful protests of farmers throughout Europe

German farmers protest in Berlin, Germany

Since the beginning of this year, farmers of Europe have been participating in powerful protests against increasing attacks on their livelihood. These protests have been taking place in both the highly advanced capitalist countries such as France and Germany, as well as other countries such as Poland and Rumania. They are protesting against several anti-farmer measures adopted by the European Commission and by the governments of the member countries.

Greek Farmers protest at the Parliament in Athens

One of the measures adopted by the European Commission is the extension of duty free trade with Ukraine. This has been done in the name of supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia.

The major export of Ukraine is agricultural produce. From the beginning of the war two years ago, the European Union (EU) allowed unlimited imports of agricultural produce from Ukraine. As a result, Ukrainian agricultural produce began to be dumped in the markets of the member countries of the EU, lowering the demand for agricultural produce of farmers of these countries.

Farmers protest in Milan, Italy

The EU member countries bordering Ukraine — Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria, which were severely affected by the EU’s policy of allowing unlimited agricultural imports from Ukraine without any duty, took the measure of blocking imports of agricultural produce from Ukraine. As a result, Ukrainian agricultural produce started coming into the rest of Europe through the sea route.

Farmers protest in The Hague, Netherlands

In 2022, seven member countries accounted for 75 % of the total agricultural production in the EU: France (18%), Germany (14%), Italy (13%), Spain (12%), Poland (7%), the Netherlands (7%) and Romania (4%). Private small farms constitute the majority of farms in the member countries of the EU. These are crucially dependent on subsidy and support from the state.  It is estimated that government subsidies make up over 50% of farmers’ incomes in the EU.

Farmers_protest_outside_European_parliament_Brussles_BelgiumThe European Commission has been steadily cutting down on subsidies to farmers. The rising cost of energy and escalating expenses, as well as the cutting back of state subsidies for agriculture, are squeezing the livelihood of farmers and agricultural workers.

Side by side with cheaper agricultural products flooding the European market, the war in Ukraine has also led to the increased influx of  refugees.  Like refugees from countries of Africa and Asia, the Ukrainian refugees have no choice but to work at much lower wages than the agricultural workers of EU member countries whom they have displaced.This has had a catastrophic effect on the livelihood of agricultural workers of many EU countries,. The farmers who hire such refugees cannot include them in their reported number of employees; as a result, they get less subsidy from the state.

The German parliament ended subsidies for diesel for agriculture, as well as for gas and electricity as well. It reduced social support for agricultural workers. It has raised the carbon tax, affecting farmers. On the other hand, it has allocated 2.5 billion Euros in assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia. Farmers in Germany expressed their anger at the anti farmer policies of their government.

Farmers protest in Madrid, Spain

Farmers in Portugal and Spain are suffering both because of a severe drought and the removal of taxes on products imported from Ukraine. The governments of these countries have not received any support from the European Union to deal with the problems facing farmers.

As part of their protests, farmers in Poland, France and Germany dumped their produce in front of city administration buildings, on highways, and conducted raids on stores, destroying Ukrainian made products.

Farmers_protest_in_GermanyThe European Commission had plans to sign a free trade agreement with MERCOSUR countries (a grouping of countries from Latin America). However, as a result of protests from farmers’ bodies, this agreement is temporarily on hold. If it were signed, it would result in a flood of cheaper agricultural produce from Latin America, devastating farmers in Europe.

Farmers block highway in Beauvais, France

Farmers of member countries of the EU are demanding that their governments implement measures to safeguard their livelihood. They are condemning their governments for pouring billions of Euros into the war against Russia. They are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the European Union represents the interests of the biggest monopoly capitalists of Europe, and that it does not care for their interests.

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