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6 Feb, 2024 19:33

Spanish farmers join protests over EU regulations

The agricultural producers joined farmers in several EU states in protest over restrictive red tape
Spanish farmers join protests over EU regulations

Spanish farmers blocked several major highways nationwide on Tuesday in what is the latest protest by agricultural workers in a European country, against rising costs, taxes and European Union (EU) bureaucracy.

The latest farmers’ protest followed similar demonstrations in Germany, France, Belgium and other EU countries, with much of their ire directed at EU regulations that, they contend, harms their abilities to earn a living in an overly-competitive marketplace.

“With different shades, in the whole of the EU, we have the same problems,” Donaciano Dujo, vice president of Spanish agricultural advocacy group ASAJA, told broadcaster TVE.

Ahead of union-led protests planned for Thursday many farmers mobilized tractors across the country on Tuesday to stage mass blockades that gridlocked numerous traffic thoroughfares across Spain.

Affected areas included Seville and Granada in the south of the country as far as Girona in the country’s north close to the French border, Reuters said on Tuesday, citing local traffic authorities.

Chief among the farmers’ complaints is that EU policies imposed to protect the environment harms their abilities to compete with agricultural producers from Latin America, or from non-EU countries.

“We spend more time dealing with paperwork than in the field,” one farmer, Eva Garcia, told Reuters. Garcia added that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy was “choking us.” 

On Tuesday, in what was viewed as a concession by Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the bloc intends to remove a controversial law designed to reduce the use of pesticides – describing the legislation as a “symbol of polarization.” 

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, the Spanish Agriculture Ministry said it would distribute an additional €269 million ($289 million) of aid to around 140,000 farmers affected by a long-running drought, as well as for market downturns brought on by the conflict in Ukraine.

Last week, Catalonia declared a state of emergency over the three-year drought which has vastly impacted some agricultural production.

In Italy, farmers have also converged ahead of a planned protest in Rome later this week. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has declared her support, though Italian farmers have also expressed concern at government plans to end agricultural-sector tax subsidies.