France to push EU on environmental regulations
Farmers’ protests intensify despite government dropping plans to reduce subsidies on agricultural diesel slowly
Paris — France said it would push to ease EU environmental regulations on fallow farmland this week as tractors blocked major highways out of Paris on Monday and nationwide farmers’ protests intensified.
The French government on Friday dropped plans to gradually reduce state subsidies on agricultural diesel and promised an easing of environmental regulations, but farmers’ organisations said that was not enough and pledged to step up the pressure.
At an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels this week, President Emmanuel Macron will push for more pro-farming policies to address the grievances shared of many farmers in the bloc, French farming minister Marc Fesneau said on Monday.
Fesneau said he would travel to Brussels this week, where he would try to soften EU regulations on agricultural land that has to remain fallow under new green rules.
Asked on France 2 TV when he wanted to reach an agreement with the European Commission on how to revisit the rules, which French farmers have complained could hurt their businesses, Fesneau said “this week”.
Farmers must meet conditions to get EU subsidies, including a requirement to devote 4% of farmland to nonproductive areas where nature can recover. That can be done by leaving land lying fallow.
“The commission is looking at different options at the moment that might respond to some of the concerns expressed by farmers,” an EU official told Reuters, declining to say if the options include amending fallow-land rules.
FARMERS CONTINUE ACTION
The head of France’s biggest farming organisation said farmers would block all major highways out of Paris about 30km from the centre.
“What we have understood is that as long as the protest is far from Paris, the message is not getting through,” Arnaud Rousseau, head of farmers’ union FNSEA, said on RTL radio.
Rousseau, who said he was due to meet French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday, pledged that farmers would continue their action everywhere in France “to get emergency measures about the core of our business”.
In Brussels, traffic on the ring road around the Belgian capital was disrupted by angry farmers and about a dozen tractors had made it through to Square de Meeus in Brussels’ EU area where they honked loudly.
Angry farmers stopped about five trucks with Spanish vegetables and dumped the produce near the distribution centre of Belgian retailer Colruyt near Brussels, Belgian media reported.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said at the weekend that police would intervene if French farmers intercepted trucks carrying Spanish produce.
At Paris wholesale food market Rungis, police vans controlled traffic after some called for the blocking of food supplies to Paris.
“Blocking Rungis is not an option. We are not there to starve the French people as we want to have the honour of feeding them,” said Rousseau.
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