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Poland's farmers challenge EU policies with border protest

March 18, 2024

Polish farmers escalate their protest against EU farm imports and environmental policies with border blockades into Germany. Although Brussels has taken steps to relax its rules, they have not stopped protesting.

A drone shot of Polish farmers demonstrating on the A2 highway at the Polish-German border, March 18, 2024
Farmers in Poland and across the EU have been calling for changes to restrictions placed on them by the European Green DealImage: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture alliance

A Polish police spokeperson said farmers in Poland blocked two crossings on the German border in protest Monday.

The farmers parked their tractors on the A2 highway, blocking traffic in both directions at the Swiecko and Gubinek crossings, both western towns in Poland. The demo first began on Sunday.

Marcin Maludy, a spokesperson for the police in Gorzow Wielkopolski said: "Traffic in Swiecko and Gubinek is blocked, you cannot travel in either direction," and the protest "will continue until Wednesday evening."

Why are Polish farmers demonstrating?

Polish farmers staged the protest against farm imports from outside the  European Union  and the bloc's environmental red tape.

A Polish farmer in a tractor with a sign which reads: "We want to eat Polish bread"
The current demo is expected to continue through Wednesday, but it might not be the lastImage: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture alliance

The demonstrators have been blocking checkpoints with Ukraine, complaining that imports from the neighboring war-torn country undercut their profits. They have now expanded the protest to Poland's western border.

Two weeks ago,  tens of thousands of farmers held mass protests in Warsaw,  Poland's capital city, for the closure of the border with Ukraine and the abolition of the EU green deal

Polish farmers also blocked the A2 highway to Germany last month in anger over EU regulations. 

EU duties for imports from Ukraine since  Russia's full-scale invasion, a requirement to leave a certain amount of farmland fallow and the 2020 European Green Deal have angered farmers not only in Poland but across Europe.

Poland: Farmers angry at Ukraine

How is the EU responding to the farmers' discontent?

The EU offered concessions Friday to revamp the bloc's subsidy program, known as the  Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in a bid to assuage the farmers across the continent.

The proposed changes to the CAP still need to be negotiated between EU member states and the European Parliament.

One of the changes is meant to exempt small farms under 10 hectares (25 acres) from checks and penalties tied to CAP conditions, while another would free farmers of the obligation to keep part of their land fallow, though they would still be incentivized to do so.

It's unclear, however, whether the concessions will end the protests across European countries.   

ssa/wd (Reuters, AFP, DPA)