French farmers want siege of Paris

French farmers want “siege” of Paris

Farmers are taking to the streets to demand higher incomes and better working conditions in global competition. A convoy of tractors is also destined for a wholesale market, which the French government wants to prevent.

In protest against bureaucracy, falling incomes and European environmental regulations, French farmers want to block important access roads to Paris from Monday afternoon. Despite the government's initial concessions, the two largest farmers' associations called for a “siege” of the capital. The government reinforced security measures and sent gendarmerie armored vehicles to the Rungis wholesale market, south of Paris.

Farmers wanted to establish blockades in eight locations around Paris, some 30 to 40 kilometers from the capital. “We stay at a certain distance, we don’t want violence,” Arnaud Rousseau, president of the largest farmers’ association FNSEA, told broadcaster RTL.

The French government mobilized 15,000 additional emergency services officers. President Emmanuel Macron wants to stop tractors from reaching city centers in Paris and other major cities, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said. The operations of the Rungis wholesale market and airports must not be disrupted. Darmanin appealed to protesting farmers to “moderate”.

“All of rural France” moves to Paris

Around 30 tractors left early in the morning from Agen, in the southwest of the country. They were to meet convoys from other regions in Limoges in the evening and arrive at the Rungis wholesale market on Tuesday or Wednesday. “We want to go together to Paris, all of rural France,” said Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, president of an agricultural chamber in the Lot-et-Garonne department.

“As long as our demands are not met, we will remain fully mobilized,” said Rousseau, from the FNSEA farmers association. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had already promised on Friday to waive a planned tax increase on agricultural diesel and greater compensation for certain livestock diseases. Other measures should be taken in the coming days, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau told broadcaster “France 2” on Monday.

Accusations against Macron

Right-wing populist Jordan Bardella accused Macron of failing to adequately defend the interests of French farmers against German trade policy. “While Germany does everything it can in negotiations on free trade agreements to export German cars at the expense of French agriculture, Macron remains silent,” the leader of the Rassemblement National party told broadcaster BFM.

Several environmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the farmers' protests. In an article in the newspaper “Libération” you criticized “the predominant discourse that wants to make us enemies”. “It is very possible to work for the environment and sustainable agriculture at the same time,” states the appeal, which was signed by Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, among others.

Different farmer associations with different demands

There are significant differences among the protesters. The largest farmers' association presented a list of 140 demands. Among other things, it includes waiving certain environmental regulations. Organic farmers, on the other hand, tend to demand more government aid to fend off cheap foreign competition.

In addition to protesting farmers, several hundred taxis blocked the Bordeaux bypass on Monday. They want to highlight their demands for better pay for patient transport.

Many farmers also participated in protests in Belgium. Several dozen tractors blocked a highway in the south of the country on Sunday. “We can no longer achieve an acceptable yield,” said Pierre D'Hulst of the Belgian Young Farmers Association.

Massive farmer protests in Hamburg – traffic blocked with tractors

Not only in France, but also in Germany, massive farmers' protests against the government continue to this day. Hundreds of tractors blocked traffic in parts of Hamburg. According to Hamburg police, the important port of Germany's second largest city was also seriously affected. There are “significant disruptions to traffic due to tractor blockages.”

According to police, truck traffic was paralyzed for kilometers on German Autobahn 7, at the level of the Elbe Tunnel, on Monday morning, because tractors were blocking the Köhlbrand Bridge and another important access road to the port area. The Port of Hamburg is Germany's largest seaport and is particularly important for container handling.

Furthermore, tractor columns caused massive traffic disruptions in the center of Hamburg, where farmers gathered for a rally at the Dammtor train station. Police asked drivers to avoid the entire area and use the S-Bahn and metro if possible. Several bus routes in Hamburg city center were affected (APA/AFP)

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