Friday 6 December 2019

French farmers block off access to Paris with 1,000 tractors - one day after Irish protests

Farmers block the Paris ring road with their tractors on Wednesday (Photo:Thibault Camus)
Farmers block the Paris ring road with their tractors on Wednesday (Photo:Thibault Camus)

Claire Parker

Disgruntled French farmers drove their tractors to Paris yesterday in protest at stagnant revenues and what they say is unfair global competition.

The protest snarled traffic from daybreak to nightfall, as farmers from across the country attempted to use 1,000 tractors to block off access to the city.

It was among several recent farmer protests around Europe - including a traffic disruption in by farmers in Dublin this week - driven by growing concerns about maintaining European agricultural traditions and standards.

Read More: Farmers leave Dublin city following tractor protest

The tractors will remain parked on the road circling the city until French President Emmanuel Macron agrees to meet protesters, regional farmers' union spokesman Elisa Despiney said.

They could remain there for "hours, or maybe days", she added.

By mid-morning, blue and green tractors bearing signs reading "Respond, Macron!" had advanced toward the south-western edge of the city, taking up two lanes of the road as police escorted them on motorcycles.

 

They then stalled on the Paris ring road, where some protesters pitched tents and lit fires.

Protesters on foot inside the city, meanwhile, blocked off the Champs-Elysees and scattered hay across the famous Paris avenue.

Police surrounded a group of farmers beneath the Arc de Triomphe, but the actions were peaceful.

The French presidency said no meeting between Mr Macron and a delegation of farmers was planned.

However, agriculture minister Didier Guillaume agreed to meet a group of farmers on Wednesday evening.

Farmers' grievances include free trade agreements they say put them at a disadvantage, a government reform that failed to increase their revenues, and regulations they say hinder the sector's performance.

They have also condemned "agri-bashing," or perceived public hostility toward farmers, particularly from those who criticise their use of pesticides and treatment of animals.

The new EU Commission president on Wednesday promised that farming would continue to be at the heart of the bloc.

Ursula von der Leyen told the EU parliament in Strasbourg, France, that agriculture, which long absorbed half the EU budget before slowly tapering off, "will remain a valued part of our culture and our future".

She promised help for young farmers to boost their income, and insisted she would act against unfair global competition that European farmers increasingly fear will undercut domestic prices.

She said that EU trading partners "must comply with EU environmental standards" if they want to import farm products.

PA Media

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