EU agriculture ministers set to meet amid farmer protests in France and Germany

EU agriculture ministers will discuss on Tuesday how to resolve European farmers' growing discontent as Brussels scrambles to address the issue ahead of elections this year, News.Az reports citing AFP.

Europe's farmers are in revolt. The fury has led to road blockages and tractor parades in the past few weeks, with farmers taking their protests to the streets in France, Germany, Poland and Romania, after the Netherlands earlier.

From rising fuel costs to anger over green regulations to what farmers say is unfair competition from Ukrainian imports, the list of grievances is long.

In France, farming unions on Monday met with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal after threatening the government with a week or more of protest action if their demands were not met.

The agriculture question matters a lot across Europe, with surveys showing a surge of the far right and nationalists – who take up the issue fervently – in the June European elections.

Keenly aware of this, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in September promised a "strategic dialogue" with farmers, stressing that "agriculture and nature conservation can go hand in hand".

The initiative formally begins on Thursday.

Powerful agri-group Copa-Cogeca said it was a "welcome initiative, albeit one which has been slow to materialise", adding that "the scope of the discussions remains particularly vague".

The aim of Thursday's meeting will be to address concerns that the green transition will wreak further havoc for farmers.

"The strategic dialogue will address ... questions around how can we guarantee a fair standard of living for farmers and rural communities, supporting agriculture within the boundaries of the planet," commission spokesperson Olof Gill said.

Agricultural groups, members of the agri-food sector, nongovernmental organisations and experts are also expected to take part.

Farmers have protested over national issues, such as in Germany over government plans to scrap tax breaks for agriculture.

But they are united by concerns over the increasing challenges facing agriculture, including extreme weather, bird flu and surging fuel costs.

French unions have demanded concrete government action to address their grievances, which they say include excessive financial charges and environmental protection rules as well as insufficient prices for their produce.

In addition to financial charges and environmental protection rules, farmers in France are also angry about progressive tax increases on the non-road-use diesel that is essential to their work.

Then there is the influx of Ukrainian agricultural products into the EU since the lifting of customs duties in 2022. Brussels will decide whether to renew the measure in June.

Agricultural groups call for import limits on Ukrainian products like cereals and sugar, which they say push prices further down.

Another bone of contention is over what farmers say is excessive regulation.

"The European regulatory machine continues to operate at full speed, ignoring the geopolitical, climatic and economic context that is undermining farms and farmers' incomes.

We deplore this!" Copa-Cogeca said in a statement.


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