Farmers’ protest escalates: European Green Deal under fire

Protest rolników

Yesterday, a protest was held in Warsaw by farmers over the import of cheap food from Ukraine and the unfavorable Green Deal policy requirements for the sector. A day earlier, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Czeslaw Siekierski, defended Polish interests at a meeting of the EU Council on Agriculture and Rural Development. Agriculture and Fisheries (AGRIFISH). There is more criticism of the EU’s climate and agricultural policies in Europe. Will they be taken into consideration?

Farmers have been protesting for three weeks

Recall that the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union of Individual Farmers Solidarity announced the start of a general strike of farmers on February 9. Heavy agricultural equipment took to the streets across the country, organizing blockades in 250 locations. Protest actions resumed in the following days in varying intensity, and on February 20, the nationwide farmers’ protest involved the blocking of nearly a hundred national roads, expressways and highways. The organizers predict that the strike could last until March 10, and in a black scenario even until April.

What are the farmers fighting for? This time their opponent is the European Commission, which on January 31 this year. published a draft regulation extending the suspension of tariffs on imports from Ukraine. The document only partially addressed Polish demands to protect the sensitive market for agricultural products. Farmers are agitating against the influx of cheap food from the East, while loudly protesting the requirements of the Green Deal and changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. In their view, the Green Deal should be abandoned for the sake of Polish agriculture, and the border with Ukraine needs to be sealed immediately.

Polish minister appeals to European Commission

Minister Czeslaw Siekierski stressed at a meeting in Brussels on Monday that the farmers’ protest in Poland is the result of a drop in their income due to inflation and imports from Ukraine. He also pointed out that the current Green Deal requires fundamental changes, and for the time being the European Commission is dragging its feet and not taking into account proposals from member states.

According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Standards for Good Agricultural Environmental Conditions (GAEC) are particularly problematic. The Polish delegation proposed that the GAEC 6 standard for minimum soil cover during sensitive periods be limited to areas affected by erosion. In the context of the GAEC 7 standard for crop diversification on arable land, the minister requested a derogation in 2024. The most controversial standard was GAEC 8, which states that 4 percent must be allocated. Arable land into non-productive areas on farms over 10 hectares. This requirement, according to the Polish ministry, should be transformed into a voluntary ecoscheme.

In his speech, Minister Siekierski also called for the abolition of sanctions for non-compliance with conditionality and the introduction of compensation for farmers affected by the Green Deal requirements and the opening of the market. He considered the issue of surplus grain, which he said could be exported for humanitarian purposes, to be particularly urgent.

Discontent across Europe

While the Polish minister was speaking at the AGRIFISH meeting, an international farmers’ protest was escalating in Brussels. More than 900 tractors blocked the streets of the Belgian capital, with bottles, eggs, and police water cannons in motion. February was also noisy in other member states. In Madrid, thousands of farmers protested against the Common Agricultural Policy’s findings, demanding easing of regulations. In the Netherlands, police intervened when farmers blocked highway exits and held bonfires on their roadsides. Protests are also taking place in Slovakia and Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, France and Portugal.

Stormy farmers’ protest in Warsaw

It was assumed that Tuesday’s farmers’ protest in the capital would be a peaceful demonstration, without blocking the streets. In the heat of emotion, unfortunately, there was pushing with the police, burning tires and vests, shooting flares and firecrackers. The demonstration, which was attended by about 10,000. participants, walked from the Parade Square to the Sejm building, where she met with Speaker Szymon Holownia. To him, farmers submitted a petition for the abandonment of the Green Deal, an embargo on Ukrainian imports and increased protection for animal husbandry in the country.

Minister Siekierski is scheduled to hold talks with farmers on February 29, while the German Minister of Agriculture is scheduled to visit the capital on March 1. agriculture. The road to compromise at the EU level, for the time being, seems long.

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