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French farmers plan ‘siege’ of Paris despite government concessions

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Monday, 29 January, 2024, 00:36
French farmers plan ‘siege’ of Paris despite government concessions

The French government rushed to appease the country's farmers on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to prevent a major blockade of the French capital this week. But agriculture union leaders showed no signs of backing down from their ongoing protests over a range of grievances related to taxes, regulations and prices.

Freshly minted French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spent Sunday visiting a cattle farm in Indre-et-Loire, as Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau promised new measures would be unveiled as soon as Tuesday to address farmers’ concerns at both the EU and national level.

The ministers are trying to head off a promised “siege” of Paris by the farmers, with major roads around France already facing blockages.

Attal acknowledged Sunday that longstanding rules have been throwing “sticks in the wheels” and heaping new burdens on farmers over recent decades, and lamented that politics seemed to be pitting farmers against the environment. While he announced some concessions on Friday, Attal said he was well aware that the government had not yet addressed the issues at the root of the farmers’ grievances.

Key agriculture union leaders seemed unimpressed by the government’s promises. Plans for a full-scale action haven’t changed, said Arnaud Rousseau, head of the FNSEA farmers’ union. Speaking to BFMTV from a barricade near Beauvais, north of Paris, Rousseau told farmers to rest up ahead of a week “full of dangers.”

Discontent among farmers has boiled over into major protests around Europe, driven by complaints about environmental regulations and increases in taxes on diesel fuel. Despite significant subsidies from the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, far-right political groups have increasingly sought to capitalize on farmers’ anger by linking their concerns to EU technocrats and foreign migrants.

Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Rally party, also met with farmers on Sunday, questioning whether the government wants to “eradicate” French agriculture to further globalization.