Farmers block border crossings between France and Spain to protest EU agriculture policy News
Silar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Farmers block border crossings between France and Spain to protest EU agriculture policy

French and Spanish farmers on Monday blocked the border of the Spanish regions of the Basque Country and Catalonia and cut off traffic at key border crossings in protest against the EU’s agriculture policy.

News outlets reported that hundreds of tractors gathered at the France-Spain border on Monday morning and obstructed main access points in all the border crossings, from Irun in the Basque Country to La Jonquera in Catalonia. The farmers’ blockade caused major disruptions of traffic which led authorities to advise drivers to postpone their trips between the two countries or use other means of transport. The protests were planned to last for two days, until Tuesday morning.

This collaborative protest between French and Spanish farmers echoes previous farmers’ protests in Brussels, Belgium demanding a decrease in farming costs and taxes in addition to a review of the EU’s farming policy, specifically the European Green Deal. Monday’s protest was organized by Spanish agricultural organizations such as Revolta Pagesa together with French farmers’ unions and associations.

Protesting farmers demanded better food security over imported products and the prioritization of local production. They called for fairer market conditions that allow competition in the European market by implementing mirror clauses and ending the importation of products from non-European countries that contain materials prohibited by the EU. Applying mirror clauses to products coming from outside the EU would make non-European imported products comply with the same European production standards. According to Inigo Gonzales, a Spanish farmer, such measures are essential for Europe’s “food sovereignty” and to ensure that European farming products have value and remain competitive. Farmers also expressed dissatisfaction with the EU’s excessive environmental regulation and asked for a reduction of taxes on energy used in food production.

The demonstration came a few days before the European parliamentary elections planned on June 6. The organizers of the demonstrations stressed that the date of the protests was chosen to draw the European Parliament’s attention to the issues of the farming sector. Spokesman of Revolta Pagesa Martí Planas said to local media that it is essential that European authorities, in addition to Spanish politicians, listen to the protesting farmers’ demands. He pointed out that the number of farmers in Spain has been decreasing because of the worsening conditions of the farming sector.

Furthermore, the founder of Ultras de l’A64, a French association defending farmers, Jérôme Bayle declared that the EU has become very influential in the farming profession which is today largely regulated by European norms. Bayle also stressed the importance of the upcoming European elections and called for a standardization of European norms so that farmers across Europe could work in the same conditions and eventually be able to engage in their profession with dignity.

The EU witnessed a wave of mass demonstrations of farmers earlier this year that started in Germany and spread to the Netherlands, Poland and France, all refusing the legislative reforms and the EU’s handling of the farming sector.