French farmers have declared a week of intensive protests targeting the European green deal, amid ongoing demonstrations against the plan across the continent. (EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO)


French farmers dig heels in against European Green Deal with mass protests


French farmers declared a week of intensive protests targeting the European Green Deal, amid ongoing demonstrations against the plan across the continent.

The declared French protests, starting on January 22, are over what the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA) farmers’ union has expressed as dissatisfaction at changes necessitated by the Brussels-level legislation.

Those include increased environmental requirements on what the union claimed are already struggling agricultural businesses.

Tensions boiled over a few days ago after France’s new Government, under Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, postponed passing an agriculture bill aimed at partially reducing the strain on farmers.

Although agricultural workers had started blocking a number of motorways in the country since January 18, the FNSEA on January 22 declared that protests would take place nationwide in response to what it said was the Government’s “inaction”.

“I can tell you that from today and throughout the week and for as long as it is necessary, a certain number of actions will be carried out,” FNSEA President Arnaud Rousseau told protestors.

He added that farmers were not just “fed up” in France but across Europe, with the rapid expansion of “green” rules causing “deep anger” across the continent.

They include recent hikes in the price of “agri-diesel”, which has been implemented in part due to heightened climate restrictions passed by Brussels.

At one blockade, farmers threatened to move their demonstrations to the French capital if that was what it took to provoke some action from the State.

“We are ready to go to Paris and paralyse the capital,” a protestor speaking at a gathering on the A64 Toulouse to Bayonne motorway stated.

Responding to the latest crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron’s new administration appears keen to get the farmers back onside.

Speaking at an event January 20, Attal made public overtures to them, insisting that the Government “understood” their struggles and was willing to support them.

“Our farmers are not bandits, polluters, people who torture animals, as we sometimes hear,” the Prime Minister said.

Such sentiments were repeated two days later, with Government spokeswoman Prisca Thévenot agreeing during an interview that the protestors were “justified” in their frustration

“These men and women engaged every day in extremely hard and gruelling work … are expressing their anger,” she said.

“This anger is legitimate, because it is the expression not only of their incomprehension but also of their demands,” she added, saying the Government was ready to “go further” in its support of farmers to appease the demonstrators.

Senior members of the FNSEA were set to meet with Attal later on the evening of  January 22 to discuss the situation.