5. February 2024
Over the recent weeks, European farmers, have been expressing their discontent through protests against national and European legislations on environmental regulations, subsidy reductions, and what they perceive as excessive regulation. While such protests are not unprecedented— are now more pronounced since Farmers assert that the EU policies to curb pollution in agriculture are disrupting their activities with financially burdensome and overly restricting regulations. Nevertheless, the protests are fueled by a combination of economic, environmental, and political influences.
Across various countries, these demonstrations have garnered backing from far-right factions, who express concerns about the implications that the new rules for curbing climate-change gases might have on the agri-food sector in the EU.
What’s the impact at the EU level?
As the European Parliament elections loom, right-wing parties both at the European and national levels are aligning themselves with the farmers’ cause.
At the European level, the European People’s Party (EPP) has taken the initiative to proclaim itself as the staunch voice and defender of the farming community. Simultaneously, national right-wing parties are capitalizing on the farmers’ vocal discontent, riding on the wave of their outrage. Moreover, the far-right movements across Europe are leveraging farmers’ resentment as a pivotal issue, effectively channeling economic problems into a solidified source of discontent. This sentiment against EU free trade deals and green regulations is a significant driving force for Eurosceptic parties leading up to the June elections.
As the campaigning season unfolds, polls indicate that the populist alliance with farmers is amplifying the appeal of far-right parties within the EU. The mounting pressure from the right has already compelled the center-right EPP to challenge the Green Deal, exemplified by their almost successful rebellion against the Nature Restoration Law last year.
This interplay between political factions and farmers’ concerns is shaping the landscape of the upcoming European Parliament elections, as it is expected that the right spectrum parties will gain the majority of the seats.
Additionally, the farmers’ protests have sparked significant concern among the European leadership, particularly within the Commission. Consequently, in response to this surge of protests, the Commission has announced the 25th of January the initiation of the Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture (SDFA), this multi-stakeholders platform was initially suggested by President Von der Leyen in September last year, as Polish farmers complained about Ukrainian grain imports and Spanish farmers grappled with crops parched by climate change, the latest protest convinced the EU Commission to kicking-off to improve dialogue among farmers and the EU Institutions.
The Commission’s President, Ursula von der Layen’s stated that “there is an increasing division and polarization in the agri-food sector”. With protests rising against the current EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Green Deal and the natural restoration law, which might downsize Europe’s policies for the green transitions.
Commission’s President stated that “we can only overcome this polarisation that we all sense by dialogue” saying that the SDFA will be instrumental at overcoming the polarization and address the challenges that are currently gripping the farmers. The objective of the platform is to ensure a fair standard for the living of the farmers, supporting sustainable agriculture. – President von der Leyen has also committed to a fair remuneration for the farmers and ensuring European food security. – Commission’s Vice-President, Maros Šefčovič has also proposed the EU institutions to promote a Global Perspective which would encompass the entire food supply chain.
The European Commission might propose an amendment to the green architecture of the Common Agricultural Policy. This proposed amendment is a crucial demand from French farmers, as discussed with France’s Prime Minister Attal, and has been under consideration by EU agricultural ministers over the past few months to address the increasingly urgent concerns of farmers.
What will the future look like?
Looking ahead, it’s clear that the upcoming European Parliament and the next European Commission mandate will place a greater emphasis on the dialogue regarding the Green Deal as well as the environmental policies and their implications for the agri-food sector, particularly with farmers.