Politics

‘You Gave Ukraine Colossal Sums, But Gave Us Crumbs’

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday was surrounded by groups of farmers who chastised the neo-liberal leader for his green agenda and for prioritising Ukraine over his own people.

At the 60th Agricultural Show held in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris on Saturday, agricultural unions and organisations clashed with security and breached the gates in order to air the grievances of farmers to Emmanuel Macron directly. After initially showing hesitancy, the French president acquiesced and held an impromptu debate with several farmers.

“You gave Ukraine colossal sums, but you gave us crumbs,” one farmer said to Macron according to broadcaster BFMTV.

PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 24: French farmers protest inside the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on the day of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the International Agriculture Fair (Salon International de l’Agriculture) during its inauguration on February 24, 2024 in Paris, France. Several dozen demonstrators entered the Salon without authorization on Saturday morning to try to meet the Head of State after several weeks of mobilizations by part of the agricultural world. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

According to the German-based think tank the Kiel Institute, Macron’s government has committed approximately $2 billion in French taxpayer money to Ukraine since 2022. However, the French taxpayer has paid substantially more through the European Union’s funding of the war, which is set to total over $150 billion after Brussels recently approved an additional $54 billion to Kyiv.

Farmers in France, and indeed throughout Europe, have been financially impacted by the war in Ukraine in more ways than having their tax dollars sent to Kyiv. Last year, the European Union decided to allow Ukrainian agricultural imports to flow into the bloc without any tariffs. The move has severely hurt the ability of local European farmers to compete, given that the lower regulatory burden and the lower cost of labour in the former Soviet state means that food can be produced at a much cheaper rate.

On Wednesday the EU announced that it would extend duty-free access to its market for Ukraine for at least another year as a measure to help its economy stay afloat amid the war with Russia. Although Brussels said that it would put some safeguards in place to protect domestic agriculture, farmers’ groups said that the move would ultimately see further protests from farmers across the continent as it did not go far enough.

Ukraine was not the only issue raised by the farmers to Macron on Saturday. Multiple farmers spoke of the problems they are facing due to transitioning their operations to organic farming at the urging of the government in Paris and the EU.

“I went organic, it’s a stupid thing I did: I sell my cereals at the conventional price,” one farmer said per Le Figaro, adding: “I don’t pay myself not low income, my income is zero. You are putting a plaster on an open fracture.” Another farmer said: “People no longer have purchasing power, they cannot buy organic!”

They also reiterated grievances such as over-regulation, excess paperwork, and the EU’s green agenda as a whole, which many in France have tied to Macron’s government, given his party’s backing of climate policies in Brussels. In addition, the farmer’s groups called for the release of tractor protesters from police custody.

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 24: French riot police intervene farmers gathering around the Hall 1 of the Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris this morning, on the sidelines of Emmanuel Macron's visit during 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) at the Porte Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France on February 24, 2024. Tensions ran high between farmers and French riot police. The Salon de l'Agriculture opened to the public late and Hall 1 is still closed to the public. (Photo by Luc Auffret/Anadolu via Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 24: French riot police intervene farmers gathering around the Hall 1 of the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris this morning, on the sidelines of Emmanuel Macron’s visit during 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) at the Porte Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France on February 24, 2024. Tensions ran high between farmers and French riot police. The Salon de l’Agriculture opened to the public late and Hall 1 is still closed to the public. (Photo by Luc Auffret/Anadolu via Getty Images)

In a defiant tone, Macron responded to the farmers: “Please, let’s not say that nothing was done!”

Following weeks of tractor protests throughout France, including a “siege of Paris”, Macron’s second in command, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced some concessions to farmers, including ending planned tax hikes on agricultural diesel, additional financial support and a commitment to oppose the free trade deal with the South American ‘Mercosur’ bloc.

However, while tractor protests have mostly subsided for the moment, the anger among struggling farmers has not. Arnaud Rousseau, the head of the FNSEA agricultural union in France, has said that it is “very probable” farmers will once again take to their tractors to protest. Farmers throughout Europe will likely try to keep up the pressure on their governments and Brussels ahead of June’s European Parliament elections.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on X: or e-mail to: kzindulka@breitbart.com



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