France seeks to quell protests as farmers unrest spreads across EU

Protests by angry farmers spread across Europe on Tuesday, as the French government scrambled to placate agriculture workers who have blocked motorways and moved in convoys of tractors towards Paris.

Their complaints range from rising costs to meeting carbon-cutting targets, fuel prices, inflation, bureaucracy, and Ukrainian grain imports.

The French mobilisation has blown up into a serious crisis for Prime Minister Gabriel Attal only three weeks into the job. Some 1,000 farmers with hundreds of vehicles blocked key roads into Paris for a second day, with some sleeping in their tractors overnight.

Addressing parliament, Attal said his government stood ready to resolve the crisis and praised the agriculture sector as "our force and our pride".

Agriculture embodied the "values of work, freedom and entrepreneurship", Attal said. "It is one of the foundations of our identity and our traditions."

In an apparent reference to contested EU rules, he said: "France must be granted an exception for its agriculture."

'Not like before'

President Emmanuel Macron, speaking during a visit to Sweden, said he was opposed to a trade deal between the European Union and South American bloc Mercosur, which has emerged as a key grievance for farmers worried about foreign competition.

But Macron also said that it was "too easy" to blame all the farmers' woes on the EU.

"We did a lot in the last years to help," he said.

Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium and Romania have all seen protests in recent days.

Read more on RFI English

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