• Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

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France turns up warmth on Brussels to handle farmer protests


France is rising strain on the European Fee to handle complaints raised by protesting farmers, together with about imports from Ukraine and a commerce deal being negotiated with Latin American international locations.

As farmers in France proceed to blockade highways and disrupt meals provides, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday pledged to defend their pursuits “not by opposing or pointing to Europe because the perpetrator” however by asking for EU coverage reforms. “On the European degree, we should have a coverage that’s per the meals sovereignty that we defend.”

Macron reiterated France’s long-standing considerations {that a} free commerce cope with the Mercosur group of nations — Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay — would result in imports that don’t respect European requirements, akin to on antibiotic utilization on rooster farms. “We ask that the settlement as it’s in place not be signed,” he stated.

Macron’s feedback come as farmers in France protest about rising prices, falling income and new laws as Brussels tries to chop carbon emissions and enhance biodiversity. Comparable protests are additionally beginning in Belgium the place farmers on Tuesday moved to dam a key port, whereas German farmers have additionally blocked motorways and prevented a minister from disembarking a ferry.

Amongst farmers’ grievances are native and EU laws, whereas in France, Poland, Slovakia and Romania, they’ve additionally objected to cheaper imports from Ukraine flooding their markets. After the Russian invasion in 2022, the EU agreed to elevate tariffs on Ukrainian grain and produce, which have decrease manufacturing prices and do not need to comply with EU requirements.

On the problem of agricultural imports from Ukraine, one other irritant for farmers, Macron stated he would increase it on the summit as nicely as a result of they had been “destabilising the European market” for rooster and eggs.

The fee has bowed to calls for so as to add quotas on eggs, poultry meat and sugar in its proposal to increase the measures, which is predicted on Wednesday, two officers instructed the FT. As soon as imports exceed the common annual degree of 2022 and 2023 Ukrainian exporters can pay the EU tariff. Poland has signalled it’ll elevate its unilateral embargo as soon as these measures are agreed.

The farmers’ protests, and the need for EU governments to extract concessions from Brussels required to placate them, had been set to gatecrash an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday designed to deal with help to Ukraine. Macron stated he would meet the pinnacle of the fee, Ursula von der Leyen, to debate agricultural and commerce points on the sidelines of the summit.

Leaders from international locations with farmer protests are co-ordinating forward of the summit, folks briefed on the discussions instructed the FT, and would carry a united entrance demanding flexibility from the fee.

Among the many considerations raised at protests throughout the bloc is the rigidity of guidelines governing what agricultural actions are eligible for EU subsidies. “Farmers throughout the EU want assist if they will be part of the inexperienced transition,” stated one of many folks. “So it’s a co-ordinated method between capitals [ahead of the summit].”

Brussels fingers round €60bn yearly to farmers via the Frequent Agricultural Coverage, in what’s the largest single chunk of the EU price range, and it has been tightening inexperienced requirements to qualify for the subsidies.

The fee additionally ceded on one other demand made just lately by France and a coalition that Paris stated included 22 member states: to push again the reintroduction of an EU requirement for farmers to depart 4 to 7 per cent of their land fallow to guard biodiversity. The rule had been suspended for the reason that outbreak of the battle in Ukraine to spice up farm manufacturing, however was supposed take impact this 12 months.

Von der Leyen’s spokesman Eric Mamer on Tuesday stated the fee would renew the exemption to permit farmers to plant on the land. The precise particulars would possibly change, he stated.

On the Mercosur commerce deal, Mamer stated talks would proceed regardless of France’s renewed push towards it, however added that an settlement was not imminent. “The negotiations are ongoing however we’re not there,” he stated.

EU officers recommended the talks might be strung out past June elections for the European parliament, and watch for the political warmth to die down.

France, the largest agricultural producer within the EU, has lengthy opposed finalising a deal provisionally agreed in 2019 however Macron has been more and more vocal about it in latest months, arguing that the pact can be dangerous for the atmosphere and French farmers. In different EU international locations too, agriculture teams have objected to the deal’s elevated quotas for meat and produce from Latin America.

Commerce commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis in December instructed the FT he may push the deal via with out France provided that it requires assist from a majority of member states, not unanimity.

Different member states together with Germany, Spain and Sweden are in favour of the deal. “We nonetheless hope negotiations will proceed and French tractors on the street received’t cease it,” stated an EU diplomat. 

“The overwhelming majority of member states need this deal. We’re involved about these reviews,” stated one other. 

Extra reporting by Henry Foy in Brussels



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