French farmers vow to continue protesting despite the government's offer of concessions

French farmers have vowed to continue protesting and are maintaining traffic barricades on some of the country’s major roads

Via AP news wire
Saturday 27 January 2024 11:56 GMT

French farmers vowed Saturday to continue protesting, maintaining traffic barricades on some of the country's major roads a day after the government announced a series of measures that they do not fully address their demands.

The farmers' movement, seeking better remuneration for their produce, less red tape and protection against cheap imports has spread in recent days across the country, with protesters using their tractors to shut down long stretches of road and slow traffic. They’ve also dumped stinky agricultural waste at the gates of government offices.

While some of the barricades were gradually being lifted on Saturday, highway operator Vinci Autoroutes said the A7, a major highway heading through southern France and into Spain, was still closed. Some other roads were also partially closed, mostly in southern France.

Vinci Autoroutes noted that the blockades on two highways leading to Paris have been removed. The highway from Lyon, in eastern France, to Bordeaux, in the southwest, also been reopened on Saturday, the company said in a statement.

Some angry protesters were planning to give a new boost to the mobilization next week, threatening to block traffic around Paris for several days, starting from Sunday evening.

President Emmanuel Macron’s new prime minister, Gabriel Attal, announced a series of measures Friday during a visit to a cattle farm in southern France. They include “drastically simplifying” certain technical procedures and the progressive end to diesel fuel taxes for farm vehicles, he said.

Attal also confirmed that France would remain opposed to the European Union signing a free-trade deal with the Mercosur trade group, as French farmers denounce what they see as unfair competition from Latin American countries. The agreement has been under under negotiation for years.

In response to Attal's announcement, France’s two major farmers unions quickly announced their decision to continue the protests, saying the government’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

The protests in France are also symptomatic of discontent in agricultural heartlands across the European Union. The influential and heavily subsidized sector is becoming a hot-button issue ahead of European Parliament elections in June, with populist and far-right parties hoping to benefit from rural disgruntlement against free trade agreements, burdensome costs worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine and other complaints.

In recent weeks, farmers have staged protests in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.

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