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EU Commission unveils concessions for farmers after protests

March 15, 2024

After disruptive protests, the European Commission has proposed loosening even more climate and environmental measures in the bloc's latest set of concessions to farmers.

Road blockades witch tractors, taken as part of the farmers protests in Berlin
Farmers in Germany started protesting at the end of last October. Image: Florian Gaertner/photothek/IMAGO

The European Commission on Friday proposed further concessions on climate and environmental measures in response to ongoing farmer's protests in several European countries.

Farmers across the bloc have said proposed cuts to fuel subsidies, along with heavy environmental regulations as part of the  EU's Green Deal plan to tackle climate change, are placing an unaffordable burden on their operations. 

"The main goal of these legislative proposals is to further ease the administrative burden for EU farmers and give farmers and member states greater flexibility for complying with certain environmental conditionalities," said a statement from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

"Agricultural policy adapts to changing realities," the statement added. 

Farmers from countries like France, Germany and Poland have blocked cities and highways with tractors in recent weeks. The protests have disrupted the lives of tens of millions of EU citizens and cost businesses tens of millions of euros due to transportation delays .

Farmers argue that the free-trade agreements cause unfair competitions due to products arriving from overseas.

A farmer stands on a tractor with a banner reading 'we want to eat Polish bread'
Farmers in Poland block a highway in February Image: Lisi Niesner/REUTERS

What are the new proposals? 

Under the proposals, environmental regulations on crop rotation, soil cover protection and tillage methods will be loosened.

Certain controls and penalties will also be exempted for small farmers, who are very active in the protest movement.

The Commission is under pressure to quell farmers' protests that ahead of European Parliament elections in June, as the farmers' cause has been taken up by far-right parties.

EU member states will still have to approve the Commission proposals, which will be discussed by national agriculture ministers, who are next due to meet in Brussels on March 26.

The reasoning behind the protests varies by country, but one area of common ground is the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which pays critical subsidies to farmers, but under the condition of following strict environmental rules. 

The plan unveiled Friday is intended to revise CAP. However, there is a lengthy process ahead before the proposed changes can be added to EU law. 

Farmers protest in Brussels as EU agriculture ministers meet

as/wmr (AP, dpa, Reuters)