Why do European farmers protest and mention Ukraine?

Why do European farmers protest and mention Ukraine?

Farmers in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and other European Union countries staged protests this winter, complaining that the actions of national governments and the European Union are reducing the welfare of agricultural workers and threatening the European agricultural sector of the economy.

The difficulties of the peasants became more apparent against the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in price fluctuations for energy, raw materials and products.

The Russian war also dramatically changed the flow of Ukrainian grain in particular, the export of which is limited by the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and threats in the Black Sea.

Participants in European protests block highways, set up pickets with tents and bonfires, and attract politicians and activists to their side.

They argue that purchase prices for agricultural products are too low, while the cost of fuel for agricultural machinery, electricity, fertilizers, seeds, etc., is increasing.

To the list of problems, farmers also add actions aimed at reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment in the face of climate change.

The leading factor of agricultural policy in Europe is the system of subsidies and rules of the European Union, which strictly regulates and also supports the agricultural sector.

But now the claims that the system needs major changes are getting louder and louder.

Ukrainian issue

Since 2016, Ukraine has had a free trade and association agreement with the European Union, and in 2023 it became a candidate for EU membership and should begin the process of accession negotiations, which will probably last several years.

Ukraine is not yet part of the common European market, but after the open Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the EU lifted a number of restrictions on imports from Ukraine and in particular promoted the creation of so-called solidarity corridors to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain and other goods through Europe.

Such actions caused dissatisfaction among representatives of the agricultural sector, primarily in the EU countries neighboring Ukraine, where they complained about the so-called influx of Ukrainian grain and other Ukrainian products and the drop in prices on the market.

Five countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, contrary to the decision of the European Commission in 2023, introduced unilateral bans on the import of Ukrainian grain and they, except for Romania, still maintain them.

Those countries emphasize that import bans do not apply to transit from Ukraine to other countries.

Farmers and, in particular, participants of protests in the countries of Western Europe, in particular in France, also express fears about the consequences of the entry into their markets of products of Ukrainian producers, which may be cheaper and win the competition.

“We are afraid because they do not have the same regulations as we do. It will be cheaper for consumers. So what flour etc will consumers or companies take? Of course, what is cheaper,” the AP agency quotes French farmer Stephanie Flament, who grows grains and beets near Paris.

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