European farmers’ anger ahead of June elections - GulfToday

European farmers’ anger ahead of June elections

Tractors and other vehicles queue on the A16 highway as French farmers try to reach Paris during a protest over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, grievances shared by farmers across Europe, in Beauvais, France. Reuters

Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

Inside the barn on the flat fields of the northern Netherlands, Jos Ubels cradles a newborn Blonde d'Aquitaine calf, the latest addition to his herd of over 300 dairy cattle. Little could be more idyllic. Little, says Ubels, could be more under threat.

As Europe seeks to address the threat of climate change, it's imposing more rules on farmers like Ubels. He spends a day a week on bureaucracy, answering the demands of European Union and national officials who seek to decide when farmers can sow and reap, and how much fertilizer or manure they can use, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, competition from cheap imports is undercutting prices for their produce, without having to meet the same standards. Mainstream political parties failed to act on farmers’ complaints for decades, Ubels says. Now the radical right is stepping in.

Across much of the 27-nation EU, from Finland to Greece, Poland to Ireland, farmers' discontent is gathering momentum as June EU parliamentary elections draw near.

Ubels is the second in command of the Farmers Defense Force, one of the most prominent groups to emerge from the foment. The FDF, whose symbol is a crossed double pitchfork, was formed in 2019 and has since expanded to Belgium. It has ties to similar groups elsewhere in the EU and is a driving force behind a planned June 4 demonstration in Brussels it hopes will bring 100,000 people to the EU capital and help define the outcome of the elections.

"It is time that we fight back,” said Ubels. "We’re done with quietly listening and doing what we are told.”

Has he lost trust in democracy? "No. … I have lost my faith in politics. And that is one step removed.”

The FDF itself puts it more ominously on its website: "Our confidence in the rule of law is wavering!”

In March, protesting farmers from Belgium ran amok at a demonstration outside EU headquarters in Brussels, setting fire to a subway station entrance and attacking police with eggs and liquid manure. In France, protesters tried to storm a government building.

In a video from another protest, in front of burning tires and pallets, FDF leader Mark van den Oever said two politicians made him sick to his stomach, saying they would "soon be at the center of attention.” The FDF denies this was a threat of physical violence.

Across the EU, over the winter, tractor convoys blockaded ports and major roads, sometimes for days, in some of the most severe farm protests in half a century.

Farmers and the EU have had a sometimes testy relationship. What's new is the shift toward the extreme right.

Destitute after World War II and with hunger still a scourge in winter, Europe desperately needed food security. The EU stepped in, securing abundant food for the population, turning the sector into an export powerhouse and currently funding farmers to the tune of over 50 billion euros a year.




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