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27 Jan, 2024 03:46

EU commission chief hopes for ‘consensus’ with protesting farmers

The European Union must overcome the “polarization” stemming from agricultural disputes, Ursula von der Leyen has said
EU commission chief hopes for ‘consensus’ with protesting farmers

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has expressed hope that a new “strategic dialogue” will defuse the ongoing farmers’ protests over environmental regulations. 

“We all have the same sense of urgency that things have to improve,” von der Leyen said on Thursday during a meeting with a group of community and business leaders in Brussels. She lamented what she described as “an increasing division and polarization when it comes to topics related to agriculture.” 

“We must overcome this polarization with dialogue,” she said, stressing the need to find “a new way forward and common and lasting solutions” for European agriculture. 

“I hope that you will build the trust to appreciate each other’s perspectives and to find common solutions for the future of agriculture in Europe. This dialogue aims to find a new consensus on issues with which we all struggle,” von der Leyen told the attendees. 

Farmers in Germany have been blocking city streets with their tractors since last month, demanding that Chancellor Olaf Scholz reverse the proposed scrapping of a diesel fuel subsidy worth as much as €3,000 ($3,260) annually. 

The German government has defended the move on environmental grounds. The farmers, however, insist that the plan would put them out of business and threaten their livelihoods. 

Similar protests are underway in France, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, as farmers’ issues are expected to loom large over European Parliament elections later this year.

The French government scrapped plans to reduce subsidies on diesel for farmers on Friday after protesters used tractors and other agricultural machines to block a major highway out of Paris and a road linking France to Spain.