Farmers in Spain fire warning shot to Brussels: Agricultural workers say laws need to change or ‘anti-EU sentiment will build’ – as they join continent-wide protests

FARMERS across Spain are set to join European-wide protests as agricultural organisations called for an “ambitious shock plan” to improve deteriorating conditions.

The main farming organisations and trade unions, the ASAJA, COAG and UPA, have agreed a calendar of demonstrations that will take place in the coming weeks.

The announcement comes as anger mounts within the farming community across the continent, with the European Union (EU) coming under intense fire for spiraling bureaucracy and contradictory trade deals.

Demonstrations have already begun in some parts of Spain – 30 tractors were reported to have marched between Azuaga and Llerence in Extremadura last Tuesday, January 29, in opposition to increasing costs and dwindling revenue.

Nationwide protests are expected on February 6, motorways will be blocked in Catalunya on February 13, and a tractor rally will take place in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Madrid on February 21. 

Protestors are advocating for changes to EU policy, including pausing the negotiation of trade deals set to be struck with New Zealand, Chile, Kenya, Mexico, India, Australia and Mercosur, the South American trading bloc.

Inflammatory farming protests have already taken place across the border in France. Credit: Cordon Press

Agricultural leaders claim that imports from these nations fail to comply with EU internal regulations, and thus homegrown producers are undercut by foreign farmers who can afford to offer lower prices for their produce. 

A joint statement from the ASAJA, COAG, and UPA, said: “This is an unfair competition that jeopardises the viability of thousands of farms in Spain and Europe”.

Farmers across Spain are also hopeful for an amendment and extension of current food chain laws that would prohibit unfair practices, ensuring that wholesale prices cover production costs.

Protestors are also pressuring authorities to find resolutions for issues caused by drought and the war in Ukraine.

The general secretary of the Andalucian branch of the Union of Small Farmers (UPA), Cristobal Caro, said: “We have, unfortunately, plenty of reasons to take to the streets and I am sure that it will be a success in terms of participation”.

Upcoming protests are set to take place at a municipal and regional level, with hopes that action will lead to a “process of dialogue” being opened with the national government and EU. 

However, there are warnings that a failure to address farmers’ concerns could lead to Spain being gripped by a wave of anti-EU, ‘Spexit’ anger.

Caro affirmed that “it could be a breeding ground for anti-European sentiments”, although he stressed that the country’s main farming organisations are fully committed to European integration.

Santiago Abascal, Vox leader. Photo by Cordon Press
There are fears that farming protests could play into the hands of right-wing populist parties such as Vox. Credit: Cordon Press

Anti-EU sentiment has been growing across the continent, with farmers taking to the streets in protest against falling revenue, increased costs, over-excessive bureaucracy, unfair competition and mounting environmental demands.

Farmers in France launched a so-called ‘Siege of Paris’ last week as roads were blocked in an expression of rural anger against EU technocrats.

In Germany last month, 6,000 farmers converged on the capital, Berlin, in opposition to a proposed tax on meat, eggs and dairy products.

There have also been protests in Poland, Romania, Belgium and the Netherlands, fuelling a surge in support for right-wing populist parties.

Geert Wilders won a shock election victory in the Netherlands after farmers revolted against new green measures designed to reduce nitrogen emissions.

There are fears that increasing tensions in Spain could play into the hands of populist parties such as Vox.

However, agricultural leaders insist that anger at the EU will not lead to Spain leaving the trading bloc.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides millions of euros worth of subsidies to farmers, is popular, whilst the example of Brexit is used as a stark warning of the dangers of a false promise of happier days beyond the EU.


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