Farmer-led protests in Europe continue in many countries. Protest leaders and masses of farmers are rejecting the concessions offered early on by the European Union Brussels center, and by national governments. Farmers, plus truckers and others, including fishermen, are demanding real change. There is hot conflict from place to place. The EU is on the spot. The whole transnational system is on the spot.
PORTS BLOCKED. Key ports through which the “free” rigged trade operate are strategically blocked on certain days by dockers, tractorcades, and other port workers. This week at different times, the Port of Malaga in Spain was blocked, Zeebrugge in Belgium, and in Germany,
SPAIN. Protests exploded Feb. 6. Tractorcades shut down highways in more than 20 provinces. On Feb. 7 1250 tractors rolled into Barcelona. Food imports from Morocco were dumped. This all resulted from several weeks of “WhatsApp” social media organizing by groups outside the established farm organizations, and they and the government were taken by surprise. In the province of Castille and Leon alone, 7000 tractors were mobilized. The leaders of the wildcat action issued a Manifesto last weekend, called the “Primary [Agriculture] Sector: Platform F-6,” which warns that Spanish agriculture, “is in a critical state; the countryside is dying; the abandonment of farms is growing, and there is no generational replacement…the prices of many agricultural products are usually below cost of production…” Their demands then spell out a new proposed system. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Feb. 7 tried to cool things out with vague promises that no imports would come into Spain from countries with production standards lower than the EU; ant that Spain’s “Food Chain Law” would be tweaked to prevent prices to farmers below cost of production. The talk now is that a nationwide action focussed on Madrid will take place Feb. 21, in which the established farm associations will also participate. There is no reason to take Sanchez’s promises seriously.
GERMANY. The Berlin parliamentary vote has been postponed from Feb. 2 until March 22 (in the upper chamber, the Bundesrat), for the 2024 budget, in which it will be decided what happens to such things vital to farming, as whether the farm-use diesel will remain subsidized. PROTESTS continued this week. Farmers deployed tractors on Feb. 5 for decentralized actions in several of the 16 German states. For example, farmers—including winegrowers–blockaded 10 of the central warehouses of major supermarket chains, serving the Rhineland-Palatinate. They targeted Aldi (the transnational chain on the move in the USA), Edeka, Globus and Lidl (also in the USA). They did this in other states; they blocked two border crossings with Poland. They demand decent prices, and also logistics terms in which the company makes arrangements for storage of fresh produce, and does not put this burden, as now, on the farmers to provide shelving, cool housing, etc.
A dairy farmer from Lower Saxony toured on his tractor Jan. 27-Feb. 7 to state capitols in 13 of the 16 states, to publicize the policy statement from LsV, co-organizer of the farmer protests. (Land Schafft Verbindung, Countryside Creates Connections). (The text was in the last bulletin update, Feb. 5).
ITALY. This week farmers converged on Rome Feb. 6-8, and the tractorcade will continue there for several days, as well as at other sites. Thousands of tractors streamed in. Various groups put aside differences, and organized the mass turnout. They are not demanding single measures, but rather call for total change. They want parity prices, protection from cheap imports, a stop to the Malthusian green directives. They put forward, for instance, that Italy—the home of pasta–imports wheat, when, instead, Italian wheat production could be easily doubled if the farmer’s production costs are covered. One of the organizers is the CRA—Comitati Riuniti Agricoli, which issued a press release stressing that non-farmers are also supporting the protests because the widespread crisis in Italy “is not limited exclusively to the agriculture sector, but is also detrimental throughout the most varied sectors of the entire nation.”
GREECE. A nationwide action is expected in Athens the week of Feb. 12, after major actions in many parts of the country over the past 10 days. Farm leaders met Feb. 7 in the town of Nikaia to plan out an Athens tractor rally. In the north this week, farmers set up roadblocks on the main east-west highway from Turkey to the rest of Europe, the Egnatia Odos throughway. Speaking there, the Pan-Serres Agricultura Association head Diamantis Diamantopoulos announced that farmers will escalate their actions. On Feb. 5, protest leaders said that the meeting they had with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Feb. 5, did not go far enough on what must be done to resolve the agriculture crisis.
ACTIONS IN MANY OTHER NATIONS include demonstrations in France, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ireland, Rumania and more.
EU LEADERS ARE IN A TIZZY AND IN FANTASYLAND at the same time. The Jan. 25 meeting of all 27 EU member nations heads of state—called the European Council—came up with a few concessions (e.g. waiving temporarily the order that farmers must set aside 4% of their land, and not produce anything on it), but otherwise backed $50 bil for Ukraine arms and government grants (over 4 years). They also said they will not allow a Mercosur deal with southern South America, if agreed to, to send cheap food exports into the EU. The deal was unlikely anyway.
On Feb. 1, President of the European Commission (the Brussels executive agency of the EU) Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, that climate change and Putin were behind the farmers’ plight. With crocodile tears streaming, she said, “Many of them [farmers] feel pushed into a corner. Farmers are the first in line feeling the effects of climate change. Droughts and floods have destroyed their harvests and threatened livestock. Farmers are feeling the impact of the Russian war….I think we owe them appreciation and thanks and respect.” She has announced that Green Deal orders to halve farm pesticide use by 2030 will be delayed, a delay which is not new, but was passed already last Fall by the European Parliament.